The University of Chicago Law School is clearly one of the most competitive in the country. But its cluster of buildings designed by the Modernist architect Eero Saarinen and completed in 1960 hadn't kept up with its students' needs.
The complex's centerpiece is a six-story library tower with a pleated glass façade that was designed to shimmer with light from the reflecting pool below. But over time, the pool, envisioned by Saarinen as an exemplary expression of the Modernist aesthetic, had become little more than an algae-covered "mud puddle," as described by one journalist. Inside, for decades, the library was marginally useful for stashing books but its extraordinarily low ceilings induced claustrophobia in all living creatures larger than mice.
Until recently, students sat in uncomfortable classrooms with terrible acoustics, poorly lit by ugly fluorescents. Walls and ceilings were poured concrete, much of it exposed, rendering utility, lighting and technology upgrades a nightmare. Below were dismal, linoleum-covered floors. Above were cheap acoustical tiles glued on to low ceilings. Some classrooms were in a dank half-basement.
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