Columbia College Conaway Center

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: Student Center Interior Renovation
Status: Complete, 2006
Photography: © Michelle Litvin
Selected Recognition: 2005 The Coolest Thing Award Friends of Downtown.

The Conaway Student Center located on the ground floor of the landmark 1891 Ludington Building is one of Chicago’s earliest-surviving steel frame buildings.  The challenge of this reconfiguration and renovation was to establish a visible and welcoming presence for Columbia College Chicago at the south end of their urban campus. The oversized letters applied to the first floor glass and the lime green ceiling grid are a non-permanent solution that heralds Columbia’s presence in the neighborhood. The project created 11,000 square feet of space as a cyber café, computer lab, and snack bar. The computer lab is housed in a suspended blue glass rectangle.  Movable mesh fabric partitions on roller tracks are used as dividers, sun shades, projection screens, or stage curtains. The shades on tracks can be repositioned within their structural bay for maximum flexibility.  The electronically controlled shades, mobile furniture, and strategically placed audio-visual equipment enable the user to configure the center to meet their needs, not adapt their event to the facility. Improving the acoustical performance of the venue was essential to space’s success. The open, lime green ceiling grid was used to allow sound to be absorbed by the newly installed black, acoustical material at the bottom of second floor structure. The acoustical material reduced the reverberation time keeping the space “lively” enough for music, but comfortably accommodating spoken communication at lectures, receptions and presentations.