PRESERVATION

Illinois Institute of Technology 
Pritzker Science Center

Location

Chicago, Illinois

Size

124,000 Square Feet

Scope of Services

Architecture
Interior Design
Programming
Planning

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Navigating Intricacies 

The Robert A. Pritzker Science Center is the face of science on the IIT campus. Belonging to the College of Science and Letters, the original building in Miesian style was designed in 1966 by Myron Goldsmith, a pupil of Mies van der Rohe. Like many other Chicago buildings, the IIT campus gained landmark designation with its addition to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. When LCM was asked in 2013 to plan a renovation program for the Pritzker Science Center, many intricacies needed to be considered to preserve the architectural legacy of the building while revitalizing and modernizing the spaces. Four phases of our renovation master plan have been completed from 2013 to 2018 to upgrade the material and design elements for a future-forward building.

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Invigorating the Spirit

The renovation preserves the building’s original facade to reinforce its historic character and common vocabulary with the rest of the campus while upgrading it with several intuitive design details. While originally designed to be the main entrance, the west doors were being used only for exiting as they did not meet accessibility codes and standards. The renovation not only re-establishes the now-compliant west doors as the main entrance, but also invigorates the entrance area as a focal point for science and innovation on campus. The lobby visually extends into this landscaped exterior plaza, creating a fluid indoor-outdoor connection with the main campus thoroughfare.

Previously uninspiring corridor spaces are transformed by incorporating natural light, color, and transparency. New collaborative breakout spaces become an extension of the learning environment and encourage interdisciplinary communication, which is often a catalyst to scientific discovery. The new Dean’s Suite opens an existing configuration of confined, highly modular components in an iconic Miesian-style building to create a light-filled and interactive space. Custom wood acoustic panels in the lecture hall are inspired by a DNA sequence, a nod to the Center’s focus on life sciences.

Every significant and slight change in the master plan was driven by smart design decisions to overcome structural and mechanical constraints of a landmark building.

Future-Forward Learning

Over the last 50 years, science education has evolved from the traditional lecture-based model into collaborative, peer-to-peer learning. The renovation upgrades the original spaces into active learning environments designed for flexibility and interactivity. Classrooms support emerging pedagogies with advanced audio-visual equipment for augmented learning and flexible seating arrangements to accommodate multiple ways of teaching. Operable partitions, moveable furniture, and logical, efficient spatial planning place importance on flexibility and growth for the building’s future ambitions. 

More daylight, open and less linear spatial planning, and the integration of transparent materials energize and stimulate the building users. The impact of these reimagined spaces helps IIT reinforce its reputation as a world-class teaching and research hub and attract the best students and faculty worldwide.  

Classroom
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Doubling Down on Efficiency

As part of LCM’s master plan to rejuvenate the 124,000 square foot building, we conducted an exterior and interior assessment to determine the future viability of the project and prepare a comprehensive renovation schedule. BIM was utilized during the design process. The renovation emphasizes sustainability and reduction of the building’s carbon footprint on the environment. 

The original building envelope is upgraded with numerous energy efficiency improvements while preserving its historic aesthetic. The thermal resistance of the dated envelope was weak, with large amounts of air infiltration from cracks in the glass and at deteriorated joints, resulting in uncomfortable environmental conditions for building users. Better insulation has improved indoor thermal comfort and will result in reduced operating costs and a direct observable economic impact over the years. Recognizing the historic significance of the building envelope, selection of the new high-performance window system was done with careful study. 

The original structure is upgraded with an energy-efficient HVAC system, systematic waterproofing, hazardous materials abatement, and acoustic improvements. New network infrastructure supports advanced computing. Building security is improved with new exterior lighting fixtures incorporated into the landscape plan. Energy-efficient fixtures are used throughout the building with occupancy sensor controls.

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