OMA and Jacobs unveil the design of the Discovery Partners Institute


Late last week, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and the University of Illinois System unveiled the design for the new Chicago Riverfront Headquarters for the Discovery Partners Institute ( DPI). Conceived by Jacobs and OMA’s New York office led by Partner Shohei Shigematsuthe eight-storey curvilinear structure will serve as an early anchor for The 78, a nascent mixed-use innovation district set to rise along a 62-acre strip of disused land along the Chicago River between the Loop and the city’s Chinatown that for decades was home to disused marshalling yards.

Scheduled to open in 2024, the domed glass and steel facility will provide more than 200,000 square feet of office, classroom, laboratory and event space for DPI and its academic and industrial partners. ; it will also be the first element of The 78, a Related Midwest project, to enter the construction phase as part of the first phase of development. With an estimated price tag of $7 billion, The 78 ranks as one of the most ambitious real estate development projects in Chicago’s history. Phase 1 plans for the sprawling neighborhood (SOM led the master plan) were unveiled by Related Midwest in early 2020. – high-rise and loft-like buildings; 700,000 square feet of residential space, of which 20% is reserved for affordable housing and 100,000 square feet dedicated to restaurants, shops, hotels and fitness centers.

Related Midwest donated the 1-acre site to DPI, part of the U of I system, for its new South Loop headquarters.

DPI headquarters, view from 15th and S. Wells Street (© OMA and
rendering of a rounded glazed entrance to a building
DPI headquarters, main entrance (© OMA and

“DPI has already helped launch our state’s COVID testing system, is testing our wastewater for COVID-19 and other viruses, and is training hundreds of students for tech careers — and has a plan to distribute opportunities fairly,” Pritzker said. in a report. “This futuristic OMA/Jacobs design matches our ambitions.”

Speak design reveal announcement, Illinois is committing $500 million in capital funding to launch DPI and establish regional hubs of the Illinois Innovation Network at universities across the state. DPI currently operates from office space in a Harry Weese-designed skyscraper at 200 South Wacker Drive.

“DPI cultivates research, learning and innovation opportunities for diverse communities, requiring an architecture that accommodates the continued growth of its programs. We wanted to provide a building that fosters cross-disciplinary interaction and experimentation,” Shigematsu said. “Programs are organized to maximize efficiency and potential for convergence, and varied layouts are configured around a central collision zone. A soft, transparent form and public ground floor offer an open invitation for the community to the building and its network.

rendering of a domed building along the chicago riverfront
DPI headquarters, view of the Chicago River (© OMA and

The design of the building aims to promote links between DPI and the neighborhoods flanking the development site; its “multidirectional form is independent of any specific direction to engage communities on all sides near the river, future phases of 78 and surrounding communities,” a press release said. As mentioned by Shigematsu, the base of the building, with its main entrance facing 15th Street and Wells-Wentworth Street, will be dedicated to public space, including a cafe, auditorium, multipurpose exhibit and classroom space. . On the upper floors will be classrooms, offices and experimental and computer laboratories dedicated to PGD. At the top of the structure is a rooftop event space surrounded by an outdoor terrace.

“Our architects describe our central atrium as ‘an active crash zone,’ and I love it,” said DPI Executive Director Bill Jackson. “We are here to foster new relationships and bring more women and people of color into the tech industry. We look forward to having a building that will help us accelerate our growth and build new relationships.

rendering of an atrium in a busy office building
Headquarters of the DPI, central atrium (© OMA and Lucien R)
program axon illustration
Headquarters of the DPI, axon program (© OMA)

“As the anchor of 78 and a building of world-class architecture, the Discovery Partners Institute will continue Chicago’s tradition of innovative design,” added Ann Thompson, executive vice president of architecture and design. at Related Midwest and Chair of the Board of Chicago Architecture. Center. “Related Midwest is proud to collaborate on this important project, and we welcome how it stands as a prototype of how equitable design transforms communities.”

A will return with updates as DPI’s historic new home at 78 begins to take shape.

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Rozella J. Cook