University of Chicago launches construction of new Center in Paris

New building, research institute to further University’s engagement in Europe, Middle East, Africa

The University of Chicago held a Nov. 9 groundbreaking ceremony to launch the expansion of its Center in Paris, which aims to serve as an important regional hub for ambitious education, research and collaboration across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The new expanded facility, designed by architectural firm Studio Gang, will nearly triple the size of UChicago’s current Center to accommodate increased demand among faculty, students, alumni and partners to study, conduct research and convene in Paris.

Attended by UChicago leaders, Marie-Christine Lemardeley, deputy mayor of Paris responsible for higher education, research and student life; Jérôme Coumet, mayor of the 13th district of Paris and chairman of SEMAPA, Emmanuel Desmaizières, CEO of Icade Promotion; world-renowned architect Jeanne Gang; and partner architects from Parc Architectes, the ceremony revealed new renderings of the building, the University’s plans to establish a Research Institute for International Studies in the Center, and a conversation with Gang on the architectural significance of the new building’s innovative and sustainable design.

Scheduled to open in January 2024, the new Center will be located at 39-45 Rue des Grands Moulins in Paris Rive Gauche, a district close to the French National Library that is considered a hub for research and higher education. The site of the Center’s expansion is also part of one of Europe’s leading civic projects, which focuses on developing former industrial sections of Paris’ Left Bank. The current Center, which is located two blocks from the expansion project site, will close after the new building is completed.

As part of the expansion, the University’s new Research Institute for International Studies will further support for UChicago’s global research and collaborations, deepening established relationships in France and Europe and broadening participation in research networks across those regions, the Middle East and Africa. The Institute also will support a diversity of faculty projects and research, such as short-term roundtables and working groups, long-term sabbaticals and visiting fellowships, support for longer projects that require recurring visits to Paris, and individual faculty research.

The Center also supports the advanced studies of doctoral students, faculty research, and partnerships between UChicago and colleges, universities and organizations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The expansion will enable 100 additional undergraduates to study in Paris each year, broaden capacity for events programming and provide new opportunities for dynamic learning.

“A priority of the University of Chicago as an engaged university is to confront the most important societal and cultural issues of our times,” said President Paul Alivisatos. “Expanding the Center and Institute broadens the capacity of UChicago to fulfill this commitment, providing the increased space and resources necessary to more fulsomely support the research of faculty and the scholarly work of students, alumni and partners across France, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”

Chancellor and President Emeritus Robert J. Zimmer added: “As a preeminent global research university, the University of Chicago is deeply committed to enhancing opportunities for learning and discovery worldwide. Through the expanded Center and the new Institute, the University will further serve as an intellectual destination for international education, scholarly exchange and research that defines fields and deepens knowledge.”

Studio Gang, headquartered in Chicago, has designed the Center has designed the Center alongside Icade Promotion. The building will feature such amenities as an amphitheater, great room, laboratory classrooms, and vertical courtyard of gardens, terraces and circulation throughout the center of the building, recalling the University’s Chicago campus experience. It also will house a small library, dedicated workspaces for research teams and visiting scholars, flexible venues for conferences and symposia, and recreational and outdoor spaces for the Center’s faculty, students, staff and visitors. A second building for residential use, titled Michigan Gardens, is being developed by Icade and Parc on the same block. 

“In line with Icade’s Purpose to build places where people want to live and work, this is truly a mixed-use project that will be part of a district undergoing a major transformation,” explained Emmanuel Desmaizières, CEO of Icade Promotion. “The Michigan Garden building comprised of 89 housing units will be built there next to the university. It is also a low-carbon project that aims to obtain the best environmental labels and certifications.”

Architect Jeanne Gang discusses the design of the expanded Center in Paris, which is scheduled to open in January 2024. (Video courtesy of Studio Gang)

“It is deeply meaningful for our first building in France to be for the University of Chicago, and to share with them both my Studio’s home city of Chicago and this second home of Paris,” Jeanne Gang said. “Our design celebrates the Center in Paris’s role as a leading hub for intellectual and cultural exchange by strengthening relationships across a variety of scales. Organized as a vertical campus, the project creates visual and programmatic connections that promote dialogue between University faculty and staff, students of all levels, and local residents. It also hosts integrated biodiverse gardens, terraces, and a rooftop that bring people together with nature, and a façade composed of locally milled Lutetian limestone that responds to Paris’s rich architectural history and the university’s Chicago campus.  I am grateful to SEMAPA and the City of Paris for recognizing the potential of this industrial site, and for selecting us, along with Icade and PARC Architectes, to realize a project with high sustainability ambitions.”

“Since its founding in 2003, the Center in Paris has provided a pivotal hub to pursue knowledge, research and scholarly engagement in Paris and across Europe, the Middle East and Africa,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “Unlike traditional programs at many colleges that focus on language instruction and cultural enrichment, UChicago offers 14 faculty-led interdisciplinary programs that range from history to neurobiology to mathematics. The expanded Center and new Institute will significantly enhance learning opportunities, as well as UChicago’s contributions to societal and scientific advancements as an institution of higher learning.”

Architectural renderings and information on the new building design are available on the Center in Paris website.