University of Chicago West Campus Combined Utility Plant / Chicago, Illinois/ 2005‑2010
Size: 41,600 sq ft / 3,860 sq m
Status: Completed 2010
Recognition: AIA Chicago Chapter 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 West Campus Combined Utility Plant at the University of Chicago is a modern interpretation of older plant structures. Clad in glass, the building becomes a transparent shell, allowing the function of the building to be clearly expressed to those passing by.
Inside, the mechanical systems function like a kit of parts, with color-coded steam and chilling functions encased in the glass skin. The plant supports west and central campus buildings and is largely machine-run without extensive human supervision. It was built with enough square footage to enable the demand for utilities to increase over the years.