“With the United Nations projecting nearly 70 percent urbanization by 2050, the demand is growing for healthier, more sustainable, and socially just urban environments — tall buildings and other smart, resilient approaches to population density are an integral part of the solution,” said CTBUH CEO Javier Quintana de Una. “The David Rubenstein Forum in particular exemplifies the diversity of interdisciplinary ingenuity required to address the complex needs of students, workers, communities, and the public in general.”
Located on the Midway Plaisance, a relic of the popular 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the 10-story David Rubenstein Forum similarly serves a wide range of users with a design of stacked and rotated “neighborhoods,” oriented toward the university’s campus in Hyde Park and the city of Chicago to the north, as well as the nearby Woodlawn community and others further south. A fulcrum point in the tower’s massing — the stitch line — balances the opposing north and south cantilevers to create a self-supporting structure much like a seesaw, allowing large cantilevers with a minimal amount of concrete. The 40-foot cantilever — one of the longest spanning concrete cantilevers in the city — at the north entrance of the building welcomes visitors and affords ample space to congregate before and after events. The building’s flexible spaces accommodate formal and informal gatherings, as well as multipurpose meeting spaces for workshops, symposia, lectures, and other community events.
“The David Rubenstein Forum is an intellectual destination for an engaged and diverse range of scholars, leaders, and community members at and around the University of Chicago, who convene to discuss issues and solutions to great challenges facing the world. Its design fundamentally rethinks and improves the traditional conference center by creating contemplative and collision spaces that foster the creation and exchange of ideas,” said University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos. “Its design shifts to relate visually and tangibly to communities to the south and north of the city.”
The LEED Gold-certified David Rubenstein Forum also establishes a connection to the natural environment. For example, the building integrates bird-safe technology in its glass façade, green roofs, rain gardens, and landscaping that incorporates native flora. Additionally, the building was designed to bring large amounts of natural light into all meeting rooms, thereby cutting down on energy costs. And it uses energy efficient conditioning systems that achieve indoor comfort levels primarily via passive radiant technology, significantly mitigating its carbon footprint.
“It is no longer enough to simply build tall,” Quintana de Una said. “We must approach density in ways that are meaningful, creative, innovative, carbon neutral, and affordable. Only then can we support balanced and healthy living, working, and civic and social engagement. The David Rubenstein Forum ... demonstrates that it is possible to consider the built environment — transportation, public and cultural institutions, green spaces, commercial enterprises, and other crucial infrastructure — holistically and adapt it broadly and equitably for positive, sustainable outcomes.”