William Eckhardt Research Center

William Eckhardt Research Center

Completed: 2015
Architect: HOK and James Carpenter Design Associates
Address: Ellis Ave. and 57th St.
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The William Eckhardt Research Center, completed in 2015, creates a North Science Quadrangle nestled between the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library and the Donnelley Biological Learning Center. The building is joined to the Kersten Physics Teaching Center by a bridge across 57th Street. The William Eckhardt Research Center is home to the Institute of Molecular Engineering and several sections of the Physical Sciences Division, including the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.   

The Eckhardt Research Center is named for Chicago futures trader and alumnus William Eckhardt, SM’70, in recognition of his generous philanthropy to the sciences at the University of Chicago.   

The University selected the global architecture firm HOK to design the building and also engaged the eminent cross-disciplinary designer James Carpenter. As a MacArthur Fellow in 2004, Carpenter formed a relationship with UChicago when he and physicist Sidney Nagel jointly taught a course on the observable properties of light. Around the same time, Carpenter designed the dramatic new illumination of the Midway Plaisance. “Louis Kahn said [that] light reveals architecture. I reverse that and say that architecture reveals light,” Carpenter explained. As a practical matter, he devises strategies to make the best use of natural light. This is done partly in the interest of conservation. “You’ll be able see light change on the building as you walk up and down the street,” he said of Eckhardt. “And you’ll see it change at different times of the day.”

The structure is equipped with high-performance laboratories that allow researchers to translate quantum information science into new technologies, develop instruments that can detect planets orbiting distant stars, and much more. The Eckhardt Research Center is also equipped with the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility. This innovative facility allows for fabricating new features and devices at the nanoscale level, supporting IME’s goal to solve societal issues with molecular-sized tools and solutions.