Last week, Governor JB Pritzker and the University of Illinois System’s Discovery Partners Institute revealed the design for their new headquarters in The 78. As part of its overall scheme, 78 will yield a vibrant new innovation district along the Chicago River. The new facility will be located on a one-acre sub-parcel in South Loop, and it will provide more than 200,000 square feet of office, classroom, laboratory, and event space for DPI and its university and industry partners.
The State of Illinois has allocated $500 million in startup funding for DPI, which is part of the University of Illinois System. The U of I’s Innovation Network will be situated at universities throughout the state. Partner Shohei Shigematsu and his firm OMA, as well as Jacobs, are spearheading the design process. Construction will be overseen by the Illinois Capital Development Board.
The building is scheduled to break ground in 2024, becoming the first structure to begin construction in The 78 Innovation District. The transformation will finally connect the long-separated South Loop and Chinatown, filling a 62-acre chasm that will improve connectivity between these section of Downtown. The virtually complete Wells-Wentworth Connector will serve as the main artery for future traffic, and will be a jumping off point for future landscaping, infrastructure, and buildings.
The aim of the project is to provide strong ties with the local area. Its multi-directional form is neutral towards any one particular direction in order to engage communities on all sides of the building, as well as the adjacent riverfront and future phases of The 78’s Innovation District. The developer of The 78, Related Midwest, donated the land for DPI and will continue to develop the property.
A sculpture by Richard Hunt will preside over the landscape of the eight-story building, whose base will be shared with the public in the form of a cafe, auditorium, and multipurpose exhibition space and classrooms. The main entry to the structure will be situated at 15th Street and Wells-Wentworth.
The architectural oversight has been led by Jacobs and OMA New York. “DPI cultivates opportunities for research, learning, and innovation to diverse communities, requiring an architecture that adapts to continued growth of its programs. We wanted to provide a building that fosters interdisciplinary interaction and experimentation,” said Shohei Shigematsu, OMA Partner. “Programs are organized to maximize efficiency and potential to converge, and variegated layouts are configured around a central zone of collisions. A soft, transparent form and public ground-floor offer an open invitation for the community to the building and its network.”