Jacobs and OMA unveil designs for University of Illinois science campus

Designs have been unveiled by US engineer Jacobs and Dutch firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) for the headquarters of a University of Illinois campus on the Chicago river.

The 200,000 sq ft System’s Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) will contain offices, classrooms, laboratories and event spaces, and will be funded by $500m from the state of Illinois.

The public base of the eight-storey layered glass-and-steel dome will contain a café, auditorium, and multipurpose exhibition space and classrooms.

The building’s multi-directional form will allow visitors to enter from any direction. A Richard Hunt sculpture will anchor the site.

The project will become the first to break ground in Chicago’s 78 Innovation District, which will link the South Loop and Chinatown, filling a 62-acre void.

Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s mayor, said: “With this new building, DPI will both build on this reputation and be able to draw from our robust talent pool. I look forward to seeing this project come to life and kick off the creation of our city’s new innovation district.”

JB Pritzker, governor of Illinois, said: “The State of Illinois is building a world-class innovation hub in the heart of Chicago on the site of an old railroad yard that has sat vacant for decades.

“Already DPI has helped launch our state’s Covid testing system, is searching for Covid-19 and other viruses in our wastewater, and is training hundreds of students for careers in tech – and has a plan to spread the opportunities equitably. This futuristic design from OMA/Jacobs matches our ambitions.”

Work on the headquarters is expected to begin in 2024.

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