Edward Keegan -- Interior Design, 11/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
"What they do is about the city," design director Elva Rubio explains of the journalism students at Columbia College Chicago, who report on city hall, police activities, and transit issues. So Rubio embraced the elevated trains rattling past the school's new classrooms and offices, turning a potential annoyance into a celebration of the urban experience. "The el is gritty and loud and disheveled," she notes. "But that just adds to the energy and edginess of the space."
The space in question, the 20,000-square-foot second floor of a 1920s former bank building in the South Loop, brings together the journalism department's 715 students, who used to be split between two Chicago locations. Now, everyone passes through the same elevator lobby and corridors. Rubio calls them "hot spots"; Columbia's vice president for campus environment, Alicia Berg, compares them to the quads and footpaths of a more traditional college setting.
The lounge area has been dipped in orange. Meanwhile, in the student newspaper and magazine's office, multimedia newsroom, lecture hall, classrooms, and faculty office suite, the existing envelope of concrete and steel serves as a ghost-white painted background for simple interventions. The primary identifiers in the office of the newspaper and the biannual magazine are bold typographic murals featuring quotes about journalism. The art is a collaboration between Gensler and Columbia's graphics department, which developed an overall identity for the campus. "We were able to combine their program with the architecture to create something new," Rubio says. A-plus for teamwork.