University of Chicago South Campus Chiller Plant / Chicago, Illinois/ 2005‑2009
Size: 24,400 sq ft / 2,270 sq m
Status: Completed 2009
Recognition: AIA Chicago Chapter Award; Chicago Architecture Foundation Patron of the Year Award; Midwest Construction's Best Award
On the campus of the University of Chicago, the opportunity to design two new utility plants to service the sprawling university buildings with conditioned and heated air allowed Jahn to experiment with function, performance, materials, and constructability. The resulting buildings display all of the technical equipment inside as if it were a work of art.
The South Campus Chiller Plant was designed to showcase major equipment while allowing the building to “breathe” in response to individual internal air intake and exhaust requirements. Jahn’s approach breaks the mold of rectangular buildings, standing out with its striking presence, which is visible from the Midway Plaisance.
In major equipment rooms, a floor-to-floor low-iron ultra-clear glass curtainwall is supported on steel bar mullions, revealing equipment, piping, valves, columns, girders, beams, and floor decks. In areas where the building needs to “breathe,” the skin is clad with continuous sheets of profiled perforated stainless steel panels held four inches in front of precast concrete planks and louvers. The mechanical nature of the façade construction — as well as the “uncovered” nature of the structure — allows the building’s function to grow as demand increases.