US firm Studio Gang has completed a student residential complex for the University of Chicago that features towers sheathed in glass and sculptural white concrete panels (+ movie).

Scheduled to open on 17 September 2016, the complex – called the Campus North Residential Commons – is the latest addition to the university’s campus, which features works by prominent architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe, Rafael Viñoly and Helmut Jahn.
Encompassing 400,000 square feet (37,160 square metres), the complex is located on the northeast corner of the campus and is meant to serve as a “front door” for the private university. It was built to help the institution achieve its goal of housing students closer to campus.

The complex contains apartments for 800 undergraduate students, along with dining facilities, classrooms, community rooms, offices and courtyards. At street level, it features shops and a public plaza that are intended to benefit residents in the surrounding neighbourhood.

“We designed an architecture that really feels like home for the students, but that simultaneously opens to and engages with the community,” said Jeanne Gang, founding principal of Studio Gang Architects, which has offices in Chicago and New York.

The site consists of three towers, a low-scale building with a green roof, and several outdoor spaces. “Students have access to two landscaped courtyards that are located above ground level to provide beautiful, readily accessible outdoor spaces,” the team said.

The buildings’ facades – clad in customised precast concrete panels – feature “subtle arcs that recall the university’s history of Gothic and New-Gothic architecture”, the team said. From a distance, the strips of concrete resemble wavy white ribbons.

Windows vary in width and have a ceramic frit that helps prevent birds from flying into the building.

The towers vary in height depending upon their location on the site. A five-storey tower is scaled to the residential district to the east, while a 15-storey tower looks toward a busy commercial context to the north.