Across the Midway from the grand spectacle of the gothic quadrangles on the north side of campus lies an elegant array of modern buildings that represent the growth of the University into the twenty-first century. These new buildings follow the inspiration of the Eero Saarinen-designed Law School building, populating South Campus with a cluster of strong, simple structures that are changing the complexion of South Campus and making it a vital part of the University.
"There is just more action," notes Ann K. Perry, assistant dean of admission at the Law School. "I have seen changes and there are just a lot more people in the area, so the vibe is great. And with future plans, the South Campus is going to be the place to be!"
South Campus has long been the portion of the University that has been hardest to mesh with the rest of the school.
Issues with the Woodlawn neighborhood leaders, budgetary problems, and economic pressures slowed the plans to expand South Campus. While the Harris School of Public Policy, the School of Social Service Administration, Burton-Judson Courts, and the Law School have graced that end of campus for decades, it had become an island of professional schools, existing without much in the way of services or dining options.
That all began to change in 1999 with the adoption of the University's master plan, which eventually grew into the 2004 South Campus Building Plan. The Plan is divided into two parts, the first consisting of projects originally pegged for completion by 2008 and the second made up of projects to be completed by 2020.
With some slight modifications, the proposal's implementation is going according to schedule. Perhaps most relevant to the students at the Law School is the completion of the South Campus Residence Hall and the Dining Commons built alongside it. Only steps from the Law School, the residence hall only houses undergraduate students. But the Dining Commons is the hit of South Campus, which makes students, faculty, and staff very happy.
"This conveniently located smorgasbord is an omnivorous law student's delight," says Christopher Montgomery, '12.
Offering the first full-meal options on the south end of campus, the dining facility has taken on the nickname "881," as that is the cost of lunch with taxes added. The sunlit facility is attached to Burton-Judson Courts, allowing students to eat in the common areas of either building and providing seating for up to 542 diners at a time. Every day, nine different counters, ranging from an omelet bar and a grill to a deli stand and a salad bar, offer an ever-changing variety of foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with brunch on Sundays. Open until 8 p.m. most evenings, the dining hall has changed life for the better for Law School students.
"Now when there are evening classes, students can go over there and get a real meal before they begin," explains Judith Wright, associate dean for Library and Information Services. "It makes spending the whole day at the Law School much easier, because they no longer have to worry about getting food. And the food tastes good, too."
The residence hall, which stands just south of the Burton-Judson Courts at 61st and Ellis, opened in the fall of 2009 with room for 811 undergraduate students. The nine-story structure continues the University's house system, as it is divided into eight houses around two courtyards that make up two residence-hall communities, South Campus West and South Campus East. Along with a two-floor reading room, the hall offers music practice rooms, lounges, and the South Campus Midway Market and Café, which is open every day until 3 a.m.
"The new dining facility and convenience store provide welcome options," says Michele Baker Richardson, Dean of Students at the Law School. "It's great to have nearby choices available, especially as the weather gets more challenging. The new facilities, including the dorm and dining hall,
along with the increased lighting and shuttle traffic, have absolutely brought more energy to South Campus."
Perhaps the only other new facility being discussed as much as the new dining facility is the Reva and David Logan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, which is slated to open in the spring of 2012.
Generously supported by David, '41, and Reva Logan, the center features an 11-story, 158-foot tower adorned with terraces and rooftop decks. The glass-and-stone structure was visualized by the designers as a "mixing bowl" of creative spaces, including individual rehearsal rooms, artists' studios, media-editing labs, and a video production studio as well as critical theory classrooms.
The Logan Center will also provide the campus with new display and performance spaces that include theaters, a performance auditorium with specially designed acoustics, an art gallery, and a state-of-the-art screening room. For those who come to enjoy the new building there will also be landscaped outdoor spaces and a café.
"This set of buildings is an addition to the south side of the Midway that respects its neighbor," noted Douglas Baird, Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor, at a talk he gave on the architecture and planning of the campus last year. "It has its own internal rhythms, but at the same time it connects to the Midway and the buildings on the other side of the Midway. Its tower is again a postmodern invocation of the neo-Gothic."
With the addition of more students and more facilities to the south end of campus, there have been more undergraduates around the Law School. Although the D'Angelo Law Library does not track the IDs of individuals as they enter and leave the building, they do complete headcounts, and there has been a notable percentage increase from fall 2008 to fall 2009 in the number of students using the library. However, the Law Library is restricted to use by students of the Law School and its faculty and staff during exam and study periods.
"Generally, the undergraduates have been great neighbors," Richardson says. "Their presence on South Campus has only made the atmosphere more lively."
While little can compare in excitement to good food and good entertainment, other more seemingly mundane changes on South Campus are being discharged with style. The South Campus Chiller Plant, a marvel of stainless steel and clear glass, received a 2008 Patron of the Year Award from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Situated beside the red-brick University Steam Plant, the Chiller Plant cunningly displays its mechanicals through floor-to-ceiling glass plates. In the air-intake and exhaust areas, the glass is replaced by perforated stainless steel. The plant will help to support all the new structures on the south end of campus, including the residence hall and the arts center.
Other renovations are taking place as well. In addition to the renovation of the Law School tower and the redesign of its fountain, the Burton-Judson Courts just received a new roof and extensive repairs, which were completed in 2009. A year earlier, the School of Social Service Administration's Mies van der Rohe-designed building was repainted and received new glass, as well as new front doors more in keeping with its original design. And this year the University will select a design firm to expand the Harris School of Public Policy.
Still to come, and to be completed before 2020, is a residential commons for the Booth School of Business, along with more residential space and possibly a hotel. Also planned is a children's garden on the Midway to complement the winter gardens that have been already planted and are flourishing, bringing color and life to an often desolate South Campus during the colder months. The children's garden will likely include play equipment and a maze and will be available to neighborhood children as well as to the offspring of University students and staff.
The University of Chicago Law School has always had much to make itself an attraction to talented, ambitious students-its outstanding scholastic record, its remarkable faculty, and its advantageous location in one of the nation's greatest cities. But with all the changes coming to South Campus, the Law School will become of even greater interest to potential students as they see that it dwells in the midst of a lively and growing part of campus.