Center for the Arts

center for the arts

The University of Illinois at Chicago is seeking a professional services teams to design an architecturally significant Center for the Arts that serves as a gateway and bridge between UIC and the world, and as a destination for innovative arts and cultural production. The recently completed Concept Design Competition produced compelling conceptual and visual material that provokes discussion about the roles of arts, design, and architectural production in contemporary culture. It also represents the cutting-edge work of the Schools in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts (CADA), and signals CADA’s ambition to “become the nation’s premiere college for education in the arts, design, and architecture.” These images are presented in the following material.


Aerial view of UIC and Chicago Skyline

As the only public research university in Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) provides a rare combination of research excellence and public access to higher education. Formed in 1982 following the consolidation of the University of Illinois’ Medical Center and the Circle Campus, the University is the largest in the Chicago area, providing 87 undergraduate and 157 graduate academic degree programs across 15 colleges to more than 30,000 students, most of them from the Chicago area, and over 40% of whom are first generation college students. The student body is also among the five most diverse in the country. UIC is now ranked among the top Research One universities, with Annual Research Expenditures between $300-375 million a year; these numbers reflect our commitment to the highest level of intellectual ambition.

Arts on campus

Arts on Campus

As the home of the arts at UIC, CADA is one of the most dynamic learning and research environments in the country. Across its 70-year history, CADA has evolved to become a destination for inventive programs in architecture, art, art history, design, museum studies, music, and theatre. CADA offers twelve undergraduate degree programs that provide specialized disciplinary education in design and/or the arts within the broader context of liberal arts courses offered by the University.

School of Theatre and Music

The School of Theatre & Music (STM) will be the primary occupant of the proposed Center. STM provides innovative, rigorous, and comprehensive academic and performance programs as part of our diverse, urban context. Its programs develop practical knowledge, cultural sensitivity, intellectual resourcefulness, and imaginative daring in emerging artists and scholars. It connects students to Chicago’s abundant, vibrant theatre culture and dynamic jazz and classical music networks. The Music curriculum provides a thorough grounding in theory, history and literature, ear-training, piano skills, and ethnomusicology. Music students participate in performance ensembles including Choirs, Jazz Ensembles, Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, University Band, and a number of chamber music groups; these ensembles are also open to non-majors for credit or for fun. The Theatre curriculum emphasizes a balance between practice and theory, with courses in acting, movement, voice, script analysis, directing, writing, adaptation of literature for the stage, devising, design, technical theatre, and stage management, as well as history, contemporary performance techniques, and performance ethnography. Every year, the School presents four mainstage theatre productions and more than 50 concerts, all of which are open to the public.


The Center for the Arts will be an architecturally significant building on Chicago’s Near West Side that serves as a gateway and bridge between UIC and the world, and as a destination for innovative arts and cultural production that performs and promotes UIC’s mission, “to create knowledge that transforms our views of the world and, through sharing and application, transforms the world.”

As the new public face of UIC’s East Campus, and the College, this sustainable, mixed-use space will transform life for the community and for students on campus, fostering meaningful exchanges by serving as a hub for public performance, research and scholarship, teaching, and gathering. This place of artistic innovation and production will promote interchange and experimental collaborations between the arts and other disciplines such as health sciences, engineering, and urban planning, as well as provide a research site for experimenting with the most cutting edge architectural and design practices.

“This space will realize the vision of the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts to become the nation’s premiere college for education in the arts, design, and architecture. The UIC Center for the Arts will be a dynamic center—at the intersection of thinking and making—where new ideas are explored and manifest, and where each stage of the process of creative production is shared with the broader world.”

Scope and Program

The AE team will include all architectural, engineering, and interior design services required to complete a state-of-the-art academic theatre and music building, including specialty consultants for acoustics, lighting, audio/visual, and theatre design. The University’s Climate Commitment requires that all new buildings achieve at minimum a LEED Gold rating. The project aims to provide radically accessible spaces for all users, including students, faculty, staff, and audiences. The program for the Center for the Arts comprises a building of approximately 88,000 gross square feet. The two primary performance spaces include a Vineyard Style Concert Hall for 500 people and a Flexible Main Stage Theatre for 270 people. Additional programs for Music include a large instrumental rehearsal hall and a large choral rehearsal hall, while additional programs for Theatre include production shops and two rehearsal spaces. Shared support spaces include a large lobby, box office, customer service offices, a donor lounge, and a small café/Jazz Club.


The University advertised for Qualifications from Architect/Engineer/Consultant teams interested in participating in a limited Invited Design Competition to select an architect to design the new Center for the Arts building. The University received almost 40 statements of qualifications from teams from across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Ten teams were selected to be interviewed, and from that interview process, three teams were selected to participate in the Invited Design Competition. The selected teams all have a Design Architect of international stature paired with a Chicago based architect who will serve as Managing Architect and Architect of Record. The finalists began design work in January of 2019 and presented their final designs at a public presentation held on April 3, 2019.

Click the images below to view the three final submissions. The teams selected are:

  • Johnston Marklee (Los Angeles, CA) teamed with UrbanWorks Architects (Chicago, IL)
  • Morphosis Architects from (Culver City, CA) teamed with STL Architects (Chicago, IL)
  • OMA (New York, NY) teamed with KOO Architects (Chicago, IL)



A selection of high resolution images of the final projects is available.