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The Midway’s New Monster

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 1, 2007 9:26PM

uofcbldg.jpgIt’s expected to revitalize a neglected part of Hyde Park but won’t look anything like its neighbors—a sleek skyscraper surrounded by Gothic curiosities and post-war bureaucratic eyesores. It is the new Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, expected to rise 160 feet above the Midway Plaisance and scheduled to open in 2011. Yesterday, the University of Chicago awarded the $100 million project commission to Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, a New York based husband and wife team plus associates, who “see architecture as an act of profound optimism.” We’ll see if that attitude can transform Where Fun Comes To Die.

The Center promises to be an outstanding resource for the performing arts. Plans call for a 350-seat performance space and three black-boxes, a café with a retractable roof and killer views, practice rooms, rehearsal spaces, and classrooms and lecture space for the performing and visual arts departments. Ms. Tsien’s experience building Johns Hopkins’ Mattin Student Art Center certainly impressed the panel, and his firm’s plan for a yoga and napping room probably didn’t hurt either. The plan conquered around 60 other ideas from around the world and an impressive group of finalists including starchitect Daniel Libeskind.

Dean John Boyer underscored a vision of the Logan Center as “a symbol of the renaissance of the arts on our campus,” a vision that includes opportunities for cross-pollination and collaboration across artistic media, a new dorm and, quite likely, more south side condos and complaints that the neighborhood ain’t what it used to be.

Image by Paul in California