University of Illinois at Chicago - Student Recreation Center

Chicago, IL
Construction Cost: $26.2 million
Area / Square Feet: 148,052
Occupancy Date: May 2006

A successful solution to the difficulties inherent to urban facility design is on display at the University of Illinois at Chicago Student Recreation Facility. With the building?s site hemmed in by a major thoroughfare to the west and an interstate freeway to the east, 148,052 square feet of activity space had to be stacked vertically on three floors. One judge called the appropriate scaling of the building to both sides "thoughtful and apparent," while the panel was also enthusiastic about interior detailing that includes glowing bridges and a glass-railed stairway that graces the lobby.

Organized around an interior courtyard, major activity spaces unfold in a compellingly logical manner, with patrons encouraged to journey into and across thresholds, reinforcing the notion of recreation as a celebration of movement. Wall openings providing glimpses of activity to observers reinforce the movement theme. The smaller details were attended to equally well, said one panelist: "The subtle use of wood to define places where one interacts is handled superbly, and adds that touch of warmth and tactile experience that makes the facility inviting."

Judge's Comments

The use of opaque and solid surfaces at street level and transparency at upper levels works well as a solution to the privacy challenges of this urban site.
— David Body

The building's interior successfully links stacked areas to make the recreation center truly exciting. The transparency of the facility, particularly at night, is dramatic.
— Erik Kocher

The designers did a nice job of scaling the architectural expression that is appropriate to both the street side and the freeway side. The lobby is spectacular.
— Dave Hammel