Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wabash Building - Roosevelt University
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Wabash Building - Roosevelt University (2012) Christopher Groesbeck, VOA Associates, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 2004 the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance that beefed-up the city's fire codes which required most buildings built before 1975 to meet more stringent safety standards. Roosevelt University's 1970s-era Herman Crown Center didn't make the cut, and the school decided that rather than investing millions of dollars in upgrades on a building already showing its age, money would be better spent starting from scratch and building anew.

  [Wabash Building - Roosevelt University, 425 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architects Mittelbusher & Tourtelot's Crown building had been constructed by the university in 1970. The 19-story poured concrete structure replaced the Giles/Purington Building, one of the city's longest standing commercial structures up until that time. Built in 1875, the Purington bore all the hallmarks of the then popular Second Empire style with its two-story Mansard attic roof and bracketed cornice. The university purchased the Giles Building in 1956, just 10 years after their move into the historic Auditorium Building which sat smack-up against the Giles's southern wall.

  [Wabash Building - Roosevelt University /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Roosevelt College had been organized in 1945 by a group of faculty members who were unhappy with the seemingly racial/ethnic profiling being undertaken by the trustees of the city's Central Y.M.C.A College. So they formed Roosevelt as an alternative option for the Y's primarily low-to-middle-income, Chicago-commuter-based student population. The Central Y was conveniently located in the city's Loop central business district and easily accessed by the city's vast public transportation network. Roosevelt's founders made a commitment to remain downtown and purchased an 11-story building at Wells and Qunicy Streets not far the Y's location. In 1946, the trustees set their sights on the aging Auditorium Building, and began negotiations to purchase the massive structure which had fallen on hard times.

  [Wabash Avenue Building - Fine Arts Annex Facade /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Herman Crown Center was the first major expansion program that the school had undertaken since completing the purchase of the Auditorium in 1947. The Giles building came down, and Crown Center went-up. When the decision was made to tear down Crown Center and build a new vertical campus on the site in 2007, the school purchased another wall-adjoining building, the Fine Arts Annex, to increase the new structure's lot size. Crown sat on a relatively small piece of downtown property measuring only 80 feet on Wabash Avenue and extending 171 feet back to the alley. The extra square footage gained in taking over the Annex's plot of ground would allow architects VOA Associates and their lead designer Christopher Groesbeck, to push all the mechanical systems of the new 32-story tower to the north side of the building, and on to the Annex's 26 X 171 foot lot.

[Fine Arts Annex Building (1924) Andrew N. Rebori, Rebori, Wentowrth, Dewey & McCormick, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architect Andrew Rebori's 1924-era building had once held the boiler plant of the Fine Arts Building, which stood across the alley on Michigan Avenue. No longer servicing the Arts building, the university tore down the almost the entire structure - save the front facade - and propped it up with a supporting steel frame. Preserved and refurbishing its original Art Deco features Groesbeck created an entrance to the new building and the school's new bookstore. The diagonally slicing tower, which the architect said was inspired by Constantin Brancusi's sculpture Endless Column, houses not only students on its upper 16 floors, but provides space for additional classrooms, labs, and a student activities. The school now gets to claim that it has the second tallest university structure in the U.S. - and the sixth tallest in the world.  

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