Open House spotlights UIC buildings

Chicago skyline

Chicago skyline view from the 28th floor of University Hall.

Open House Chicago is coming to UIC for the first time.

The festival, which gives visitors behind-the-scenes access to more than 200 buildings in 20 different Chicago neighborhoods, selected University Hall, the Behavioral Sciences Building and College of Medicine West as sites for the 2016 event, sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

“It’s super exciting,” said Jonathan Mekinda, assistant professor in art history and design. “The idea is that on these weekends, buildings and specific spaces that are normally not accessible to the public are made accessible.”

Mekinda spearheaded the plan to bring Open House to UIC after receiving support from Chancellor Michael Amiridis and other administrators. The organization didn’t need much convincing, though.

Mekinda said program officials were “fired up” about the prospect of including campus locations.

“We’re very excited to have University Hall, Behavioral Sciences Building and the College of Medicine West building involved in the event,” said Garrett Karp, program manager of Open House Chicago. “I’m always looking for interesting architectural spaces that the public is either curious about or doesn’t know about to feature in Open House Chicago.”

All three UIC locations will be open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

At University Hall, the 28th floor will be available for people to see a panoramic view of Chicago’s skyline from an angle scarcely seen. The top floor is about 20 feet wider than the base to convey the “City of Broad Shoulders.” UIC architect Walter Netsch completed the building in 1967.

“I had been specifically curious about the top of University Hall for quite some time, but had never been inside,” Karp said.

The Behavioral Sciences Building is being included because it is a prime example of Netsch’s field theory. The theory explores ways singular geometric shapes can be repeated and rotated to create larger compositions.

“The idea is that by taking these forms, rotating them and changing the position with one another, you can build up a more complex shape,” Mekinda said. “What Netsch is doing in field theory is he’s developing his unique approach to what is one of the essential questions of architecture and design, which has to do with organization.

“The task of architectural design is to articulate an order for the relationship between parts of the composition and the whole.”

College of Medicine West is a hidden gem on campus. Attendees will have access to the faculty, student and alumni lounge, which boasts wood paneling, high ceilings and large, classical windows. The space is typically unknown amongst Chicagoans.

“[UIC] also brought the cool lounge space at the College of Medicine West to our attention,” Karp said. “I had no idea that existed, and I’m assuming that very few people do.”

The event is an opportunity to highlight the modern aura of campus.

“The campus has a certain beauty,” Mekinda said. “I think the more important part is the campus looks the way it looks because it was designed for a very specific purpose. The late 1950s, 1960s was the first time you see urban, public universities like this.”

Along with checking out UIC stations, students and the community are invited to go view the other sites at Open House. The event is free.

“This is an opportunity to get a much fuller picture of Chicago,” Mekinda said. “Seeing buildings and spaces is a way to access history.”