Urban vertical sustainable

Roosevelt University's Wabash Building points to the campus of the future

Roosevelt University’s Wabash Building may not fit classic preconceptions of a college campus environment. Yet as an urban, vertical and sustainable campus building, it has much to recommend to the next wave in higher education design.

Increasingly, we are a planet of city dwellers longing for culture and community and sustainable living. Located in a dense, culturally significant urban area, this multi-use high-rise building elegantly responds to a university’s needs with a new, innovative typology. The 32-story vertical campus combines five buildings into one, linking classrooms, laboratories, administrative offices, student union, student services and 634 residential beds. The success of the Wabash Building design has application far beyond its particular context.

The Wabash Building plays a significant role in Chicago’s urban landscape. Roosevelt students and faculty benefit from their access to the cultural amenities available in a cosmopolitan city center.

A city is a great collection of rooms. Potentially, vertically organized universities can create “great rooms” in the sky that connect the act of learning within the context of community. Spaces in the Wabash Building offer views of Chicago’s downtown and lakefront park, creating a connection between classroom learning and the observation of nature. It recreates the idea of “the Scholar in the Garden,” a historic cultural archetype.

The Wabash Building was developed in response to the university’s transition from a commuter school to a full-time model, and its decision to stay in the city and build adjacent to the historic Auditorium Building. Rising above and connecting to the historic Auditorium Building creates an intriguing dialogue between past and present. Like an iconic skyscraper, the Wabash Building strikes a recognizable figure on the Chicago skyline.

Students studying in the Wabash Building are surrounded by culture and academia in a bustling community of learning known as the “South Loop Educational Corridor.” Located in Chicago’s downtown Loop, the building is a short walk from Lake Michigan, Grant Park, world-class attractions, cultural centers, restaurants, and events. The building accesses the historic Burnham Park (including Millennium Park and Grant Park), which serves informally as a university quadrangle. The design enhances and complements the adjacent Auditorium Building and Fine Arts Annex Façade.

The building enables access to multiple convenient modes of public transportation and nearby city infrastructure, dramatically reducing automobile dependence. It is estimated that 94 percent of building occupants use public transit, cycling or walking to reach the Wabash Building.

The vertical organization of the Wabash Building unites students, faculty and staff, offers convenient access to services and invites impromptu interaction.

The decision by Roosevelt to stay in the city, on a relatively small site while expanding critical program components to create a flexible “campus” called for a vertical organizational model rarely seen in university programs.

The Auditorium Building, designed by the “father of modern architecture” Louis Sullivan, was one of the first modern vertically-organized mixed-use structures in America and the center of the Roosevelt campus since the ‘40s. Roosevelt’s embrace of the vertical campus was a natural step. The tower’s sculptural form mirrors the transformative university experience and suggests the infinite nature of education.

Inside, the vertical campus space is composed of connecting, vibrantly color-coded neighborhoods. These neighborhoods include student services, student union, academic and student residential environments that emphasize the “out of class” spaces vital to a university atmosphere. The building interior emphasizes these collaboration spaces as well as stairs and atriums with open views, all vital to personal development, community and the university’s metropolitan atmosphere.

The vertical design required innovative solutions. A served/servant model organizes the space functions between south and north. The shared elevator core has an extra social benefit in that it informally mixes students, faculty and staff.

The LEED Gold-certified building makes use of a multitude of sustainable features and invites students to access the lakefront. Sustainability aligns with Roosevelt University’s mission of teaching social justice.

The 420,000 square foot multi-use facility is located on a small 17,300 square foot mid-block greyfield site in a dense urban area. The vertical campus has a low carbon footprint relative to the requirements of a horizontally organized campus.

The LEED Gold-certified building receives 72% of its energy through renewable sources, and achieves 35% water and 28% energy savings. Building orientation, massing, strategic program stacking, natural ventilation, latent-heat recovery and rainwater harvesting all contribute to its success. The sustainable interior incorporates 38% recycled material, 73% FSC wood, no/low VOC finishes, and makes use of abundant daylight. The building fosters sustainable and healthy behavior through inviting, bright and visible stairwells further supported by informational signage and green student competitions. The building also features a sustainable closed-loop system of food production: food grown in the roof gardens is consumed in the cafeteria and its waste is composted for roof garden fertilization.

The Wabash Building connects the university community to Chicago’s lakefront, the area’s most distinct ecological feature. The building reinforces a connection to Burnham Park, a public space envisioned in Daniel H. Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago. Burnham Park serves as a kind of informal campus quad for Roosevelt University. The building design recognizes the health-promoting practice of biophilia, offering students views of nature and the lake, and integrating student life with the lakefront park. Ultimately, the Wabash Building successfully celebrates Chicago’s diverse community and culture,
while providing a healthy environment in which to live, work and learn. It is not about how tall a building is but what a building contributes to the success of a city.

2013 ULI Vision Award
2013 ULI Global Award of Excellence
2013 AIA Sustainability Honor Award
2013 Emerald Award United States Green Building Council
2013 Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award

Size: 420,000 square feet
Team: Chris Groesbeck, Paul Hansen, Michael Siegel, Jeff Hrubec, Patricia Rotondo, Joe Dietz,
Clint Moewe, Rebecca Buchmeister, Al Migon, Yao Lin, JiHye Park and Gale Soberg
Photography by Tom Rossiter

1 Comment

Write your comment