Blank slates make for easy planning. Awareness of ecological richness confounds the process, creating conditions for innovation. The purpose of this essay is to complicate the planning process for the new Chicago Theological Seminary building to be constructed on the south campus of the University of Chicago. When the larger urban ecology is made visible, this project becomes at once problematic and full of promise—ripe for elegant design solutions.
In May of last year, the University announced it had entered into an agreement to purchase the CTS complex at the center of its campus. It plans to use the structure to house the Milton Friedman Institute (a name that provoked intense controversy, even before the economic crisis sharpened questions about the wisdom of unregulated markets). As part of the agreement, the University will build a new facility for CTS. According to the CTS website, the seminary will move in 2012 to a new building at the southeast corner of 60th Street and Dorchester Avenue:
Overlooking the scenic Midway Plaisance, the planned facility will feature a LEED-compatible "green" design by Dirk Danker of Chicago-based Nagle Hartray architects. Plans call for a four-story, 75,000-square-foot structure capped by a green roof. A semi-circular, glass-enclosed chapel and meeting space will provide a welcoming setting for worship and gatherings. The lower level will accommodate future expansion.