Keller Center

Completed: 1963
Architect: Edward Durell Stone
Renovated: 2018
Architect: Farr Associates
Address: 1155 E. 60th St.
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­­­­­The Keller Center, home to the University’s Harris School of Public Policy, represents a transformation of Edward Durell Stone’s 1963 building on the southern edge of the Midway Plaisance. Most recently a student residence hall, the original three-story building had a monumental feel, with signature New Formalism features including slender columns, a perforated canopy, and decorative tracings on its limestone façade.

In reimagining the structure, Doug Farr’s Chicago-based architecture and urban planning practice, Farr Associates, sought to maintain its historic, stately character while freeing its “compressed” elements, by raising the ceilings and opening up the building to incorporate more natural light.

Forum built to foster engagement

The renovation is centered around a four-story wood and glass atrium, named the Harris Family Foundation King Harris Forum. The wood panels come from Chicago trees felled by the emerald ash borer and milled by local residents under the direction of UChicago artist Theaster Gates. One of the planned uses of the forum will be events and meetings that include residents from the local community.

Designed as a structure to cultivate the active exchange of ideas and foster deeper engagement with Chicago and the world, the building features ascending terraces that act as collaborative workspaces and double as platforms for amphitheater seating. The base of the atrium has a sun-splashed café, and the space is lit in large part by a skylight. The Keller Center, named in recognition of the $20 million gift from Dennis and Connie Keller in support of the project, has two other major skylights, as well as a fourth-floor “sky suite” with spectacular views of the iconic Chicago skyline.

Eco-friendly technologies

The renovation gracefully integrates the history of the building, such as its original bank of brass mailboxes on the lower level, with state-of-the-art eco-friendly technology, including solar panels that generate 150 MWh (150,000 kWh) annually, a rainwater-capture system that diverts more than 500,000 gallons of water annually, and a green roof. The University is pursuing LEED Platinum certification for the building.