A major university building which uses a stacked and rotated design has been announced as the world’s best tall building for 2022.

At its annual conference in Chicago on November 9-12, the Council on Tall buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) announced that the David Rubenstein Forum building at the University of Chicago had been named as the Best Tall Building Worldwide in 2022.

Located on the Midway Plaisance – a relic of the popular 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition – the ten-storey building serves a variety of uses which are focused around conferences and internal purposes.

Programs within the forum include convenings such as academic symposia, strategy and planning retreats and talks by distinguished leaders and other dignitaries from around the world.

Prior to its construction, the university had not had a suitable space for these purposes.

A key feature of the building is its stacked design.

This sees rotated ‘neighbourhoods’ which orient toward the university’s campus in Hyde Park and the city of Chicago to the north as well as the nearby Woodlawn community and others further south.

These are joined by a ‘stich line’ in the middle. The line balances opposing north and south cantilevers and creates a self-supporting structure that resembles a seesaw.

Such an arrangement allows for large cantilevers whilst minimising the volume of concrete which is required for these.

The 40-foot cantilever at the north entrance of the building is one of the longest spanning concrete cantilevers in Chicago. This welcomes visitors and affords ample space to congregate before and after events.

Other building features include:

  • A spatial layout which is designed according to a ‘progressive retreat’ model. This involves highly active and illuminous spaces on lower floors which connect via a grand staircase and ascend to progressively more intimate settings as you move up to higher floors.
  • An organisation based on distinct and vibrant ‘neighbourhoods’. For example, the third and fourth floors are home to Friedman Hall, a 285-seat auditorium optimised for spoken word, including keynote speeches, invited-speaker addresses, and select performances; these floors and other neighbourhoods are connected by a two-story lounge. Meeting rooms on the eighth and ninth floors feature premium furnishings, finishes and equipment, such as the Peter May Boardroom, a tiered meeting space that seats over 70.
  • Use of simple and ‘pure’ materials such as blackened steel and wood. These materials find their way at every level of the building (including wind-up sets of stairs, over bridges, and in ceilings, floors and walls) to create an orchestrated ‘symphony’ of materials and colours.
  • Signature spaces including a 285-seat auditorium with views toward the Midway Plaisance and Rockefeller Chapel, a boardroom and a family lounge with views toward the south side, and a city view room with magnificent panoramic views of the campus, downtown Chicago and the Chicago Lake.
  • Sustainability features which establish a connection with the natural environment (the building is LEED Gold certified). These include integration of bird-safe technology in the glass façade, green roofs, rain gardens, landscaping that incorporates native flora. large volumes of natural light in meeting rooms and energy efficient conditioning systems that achieve indoor comfort primarily via passive radiant technology.
  • A range of contemplative and collision spaces which foster innovation and idea exchanges.
  • Ample space in the cantilever at the building’s northern entrance to congregate before and after events. This includes two dining areas including a dining room that seats over 80 attendees and university patrons for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as an elevated wine bar and café.
  • A contemporary art installation involving exhibits from the historic collection of David Rubinstein.

The building is owned by the University of Chicago. It was designed by architects Brinistool + Lynch and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

Charles Renfro, a partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, said the design embodies the University’s mission which is founded on cross disciplinary and cross-cultural exchange.

“I like to think of the building as an instrument through which you are reconnected to the sides of Chicago – the north side and the south side – through giant picture windows which are two stories high and have no steel framing elements so that the outside in brought into the building and the inside allows you to witness the city in a whole new way,” Renfro said.

The building also took at the Best Tall Building Americas award.

In addition to the overall winner, winners were announced in five regional categories, five height categories, categories focused around engineering and other functional categories.

Several other buildings stood out.

In Australia, for example, the Collins Arch in Melbourne owned by ISPT and designed by Woods Bagot and SHoP Architects took out both the Best Tall Building Australia award and the Best Tall Building Mixed-Use award.

The twin towers of the arch are joined by an eight-level sky bridge which spans fourteen meters.

All up, the 6,000 square meter block precinct features luxury residences, a five-star hotel, commercial office space, vibrant retail and dining offerings and around 1,900 square meters of public space.

Collins Arch, Melbourne

In another example, 111 West 57th Street (also known as Steinway Tower) in New York City took out the award for the Best Tall Building – Residential or Hotel along with the audience award for the Best Tall Building 400 meters and above.

The 84-storey building in Midtown Manhattan preserves the 16-storey Steinway Building, a former Steinway & Sons store, which was completed in 1925 (Developer JDS Development Group and Property Markets Group/Architect SHoP Architects and Warren and Wetmore).

111 West 57th Street

CTBUH CEO Javier Quintana de Una congratulated the winners and finalists, saying that the importance of tall buildings should not be underestimated.

“With the United Nations projecting nearly 70 percent urbanization by 2050, the demand is growing for healthier, more sustainable, and socially just urban environments—tall buildings and other smart, resilient approaches to population density are an integral part of the solution,” Quintana de Una said.

“The projects selected for our yearly Award of Excellence competition represent the most advanced concepts and technologies currently employed around the world, and the David Rubenstein Forum in particular exemplifies the diversity of interdisciplinary ingenuity required to address the complex needs of students, workers, communities, and the public in general.”