Architect Discusses Law School Renovations

Design Essay: Renovating mid-Century Modern Libraries
Mark C. Hirons
June 8, 2010

The University of Chicago’s Law School campus, designed in 1958 by Eero Saarinen, is a quintessential piece of mid-Century Modern architecture. In 15 years of working with the Law School and the university, OWP/P | Cannon Design respected the functional and Modernist aesthetic and built upon the strength of Saarinen’s original design with numerous renovations and additions. The redesign modernized and enhanced spaces to improve the quality of the student experience, better support 21st century learning methodologies and completely replace and upgrade the campus’ infrastructure to improve energy efficiency and technology. Ultimately in rehabilitating and recapitalizing the campus, OWP/P /Cannon Design served as stewards to Saarinen’s architectural vision for this prestigious law school.  

Elevating the Student Experience

Throughout renovations of classroom, auditorium, lounge, and library environments the various deans of the law school understood the importance of elevating the student experience.  Often previously perceived as a cold, somewhat sterile setting indicative of many mid-Century Modernist buildings, the goal of making these spaces feel engaging and expressing the highest level of quality was essential.   

Within the classroom wing, a new concourse was created to provide supporting learning spaces just outside seminar rooms and provide accessibility to all.  Acoustical wood panels were incorporated to enhance the acoustics