University selects Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design Rubenstein Forum

Mary Abowd
News Officer for Arts & HumanitiesUniversity Communications

The University of Chicago has announced that Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), an international design firm based in New York City, will design the David M. Rubenstein Forum, a new facility for convening and collaboration to be located at the southeast corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 60th Street. Targeted for completion in 2018, the Rubenstein Forum will host conferences, workshops, lectures, ceremonies and other gatherings. It is named for University Trustee David M. Rubenstein, JD’73, in recognition of a new, significant gift as well as his history of generosity and ongoing support to the University.

“Diller Scofidio + Renfro brings exceptional talent and vision to the design of this important addition to our campus,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “The Forum will reinforce and enhance the convening power of the University and its role as a leading intellectual destination. We are pleased to be able to recognize David Rubenstein for his wonderful generosity by naming this important building in his honor.”

Diller Scofidio + Renfro is an interdisciplinary design studio that spans the fields of architecture, the visual arts and the performing arts. The firm is now charged with creating an innovative design for the University’s Campus South that will blend formal meeting spaces with opportunities for informal interaction to support and promote inquiry and facilitate the open exchange of ideas.

“As our first building in Chicago, the Rubenstein Forum presents a unique challenge: to imagine a contemporary place of discourse for all of the university’s constituent departments and institutes as well as invited scholars and dignitaries from around the world,” said DS+R founding partner Elizabeth Diller. “The new building will combine a variety of spaces, both formal and informal, large and small, calm and animated, focused and diffuse, scheduled and spontaneous. The Forum's unique position on the Midway will allow for expansive views toward the campus and surrounding communities as well as downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan.”

The studio established its identity through experimental large-scale installations, curatorial and performance projects, and works in media and print. For their commitment to merging art and architecture with issues of contemporary culture, founding partners Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio were recognized by the MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, the first given in architecture.

“Our selection of Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design the Rubenstein Forum,” explained David Fithian, executive vice president, “signals the great importance we are placing on the way the building will function. We want this building to promote an experience that enhances the work to be done within its walls and not just stand as a neutral container of activities.” Fithian is the senior administrator overseeing the project. 

DS+R’s recent and ongoing architecture projects include the High Line park, the redevelopment of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the expansion of The Museum of Modern Art, and the new start-up Culture Shed, all in New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; The Broad Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Image and Sound, Rio de Janeiro; Zaryadye Park, Moscow; and the United States Olympic Museum, Colorado Springs. The studio’s recent art projects include Musings on a Glass Box for the Fondation Cartier and Charles James: Beyond Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Liz Diller and her partners have proven to be innovative and intelligent in the creation of architecture that elevates discourse,” said Steve Wiesenthal, senior associate vice president for facilities and university architect. “We are honored to work with them on the Rubenstein Forum as a bold next step transforming Campus South.”