Steve Wiesenthal / Courtesy University of Chicago
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts / Courtesy Tom Rossiter
Saieh Hall for Economics / Courtesy Tom Rossiter
Seminary Co-Op Bookstore / Courtesy ironypoisoning via Flickr
Chicago Cultural Center / Courtesy Daderot via Wikipedia
Steve Wiesenthal is the senior associate vice president for facilities services and university architect for the University of Chicago. He oversees the planning, design, construction and facilities operations of the 215-acre campus. Wiesenthal also implemented the university’s first campus-wide environmental sustainability program.
The University of Chicago campus is the best place to experience a purpose-built community of scholarly endeavors. Observe the evolution from inward-focused Collegiate Gothic quadrangles built in the early 1890s to innovative modern architecture by Eero Saarinen (the Law School), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (Social Science Administration), Rafael Viñoly (Booth School of Business Charles M. Harper Center), Ricardo Legoretta (Max Palevsky Residential Commons), Cesar Pelli (Gerald Ratner Athletics Center), Helmut Jahn (Joe and Rika Mansueto Library), Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts), and most recently, an amazing adaptive reuse of a former seminary into the new Saieh Hall for Economics by Ann Beha Architects (located across the street from Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Robie House). In addition, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in 1928, is notable for its exquisite stained glass and its 72-bell carillon—the second-largest in the world. Be sure to climb the tower for views of the city, Lake Michigan, and the campus. Tours start at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and 12:15 p.m. on Sundays.
The campus is located just seven miles south of the convention center and can be easily reached by the Metra commuter rail, cab, Uber, or Divvy, Chicago’s bike share program. Private tours of campus can be arranged though the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF).
Speaking of the Foundation, consider going on any one of the more than 85 CAF tours– especially those led by my wife, Rebecca Trumbull–on foot, bike, Segway, “L” train, bus, trolley, or boat. The CAF also provides a great tour of our campus.
Visit the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, on South Woodlawn Avenue next to the Robie House. Treat yourself to a meandering journey through the labyrinthine Tigerman McCurry Architects–designed bookshelves of the greatest independent scholarly bookstore in the country, and top off your visit with a coffee or snack at the adjacent Plein Air Café.
Best Way to See Downtown
By far, DIVVY! Pick up a baby-blue bike for $7 and see why Chicago, with its skyline so close to the lake, becomes a true beach town in the summer. And winter? It’s a great place to catch up on your reading, movies, and theater. In the evening, head to Improv Olympics near Wrigley Field for the Whirled News Tonight, or grab tickets to Second City. Laugh a lot.
In Greektown, head to Greek Islands or Pegasus to see where flaming saganaki was invented. Go to Pilsen for great Mexican fare; my favorite spot is Mondial. Find great Vietnamese food on Argyle at Tank Noodle, Ethiopian at RasDashen in Uptown, or, if you must, seek any one of the famous steak houses near Rush and State streets; Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse is a big draw. In Hyde Park, on 53rd Street, just north of campus, don’t miss A10, named for the highway connecting France and Italy, with creative cuisine you’d find there.
Best Indoor Spot to Escape the Rain
Pop into The Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing to experience the sheer impact of a museum truly built to beautifully house—not compete with—art. Check out the nearby Chicago Cultural Center for unusual exhibits, mosaic floors, and sometimes, surprisingly good music under the Tiffany glass domes.