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Northeastern Illinois University – El Centro

JGMA was selected by Northeastern Illinois University from over 30 entrants to design this new El Centro urban campus in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago. Due to the growing needs of its students, Northeastern Illinois University has worked to expand and modernize its academic programming by opening its new El Centro location in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. This 66,000-square-foot facility expands NEIU’s capabilities by providing technology-enhanced classrooms, state-of-the-art laboratories, and modern offices and spaces.

Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-01-Tom-Rossiter-759x346 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter

Northeastern Illinois University El Centro is the University’s academic center for the Latino community. Known as El Centro [the center], this location provides educational opportunities to members of the Latino community, though not exclusively, in or near their own neighborhoods. El Centro assists prospective students and their families with the admission and financial aid process, offers undergraduate and graduate courses leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees and provides a comprehensive academic support and co-curricular programs for students. El Centro serves the Latino community through English as a Second Language (ESL) and computer literacy instruction, as well as outreach programs in the areas of education, health, housing and technology.

Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-03-Tom-Rossiter-759x467 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter

“This site offers NEIU both figurative and literal visibility. The building footprint follows site geometry while pushing toward the expressway to reflect an urban street edge with parking hidden behind. This orientation allows the building itself to act as a marketing tool for NEIU. Unlike a billboard, the architecture asserts its presence, not through shameless advertising, but through twisting roof forms and the bold NEIU school colors prominent on the vertical louvers rhythmically arrayed along the building’s facades.” – Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects JGMA

Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-07-Tom-Rossiter-800x1200 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter

Working closely together with Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects JGMA, Primera provided all the building engineering systems designs. Primera delivered a new sustainable building featuring high efficiency HVAC, energy saving daylight harvesting, occupancy lighting control, low flow plumbing fixtures, system metering and measurement, and programmable HVAC schedules for reduced energy consumption during off-peak hours.

Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-11-Tom-Rossiter-759x505 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter


Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-12-Tom-Rossiter-801x1200 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter

JGMA:

The Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) El Centro project is the first component in a satellite campus master plan envisioned by NEIU to provide educational, career and cultural opportunities primarily, though not exclusively, to the Latino community of Chicago. The El Centro campus seeks to revitalize this large swath of primarily industrial land bordered by Kimball Avenue, the Union Pacific/Northwest Metra line, and the 90/94 expressway, while serving as a catalyst for further development in the area.

Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-16-Tom-Rossiter-759x506 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter

Although the site may seem overwhelmed by its context, the location is a significant and strategic design choice. This is evidenced by the fact that there exists a large Latino population in the area and the CTA Belmont Blue Line station located immediately to the south. These key components of community and infrastructure will support the campus as it evolves which will in turn encourage the area to become more businesses, pedestrian, and bicycle friendly. Furthermore, this site offers NEIU both figurative and literal visibility.

Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-18-Tom-Rossiter-759x506 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter


Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-20-Tom-Rossiter-759x505 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter

The building footprint follows site geometry while pushing toward the expressway to reflect an urban street edge with parking hidden behind. This orientation allows the building itself to act as a marketing tool for NEIU. Unlike a billboard, the architecture asserts its presence, not through shameless advertising, but through twisting roof forms and the bold NEIU school colors prominent on the vertical louvers rhythmically arrayed along the building’s facades. The message will be read loud and clear: NEIU stands as a role model in the community of higher education with a commitment to excellence, access to opportunity, and diversity.

Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-22-Tom-Rossiter-759x506 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter

The building’s sculptural form and vibrant facade are layered with intent reaching far beyond their superior marketing capabilities. Especially indicative of this point are the exterior vertical louvers, which when coupled with the fully-glazed single-loaded corridors, combine to create an incredibly efficient sun-shading and acoustic-buffering barrier, protecting students of the many evening classes offered from the intensity of the setting western sun and the roar of rush hour traffic. The canted walls and twisting roof forms respond to the programs within.

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© flickr-John Zacherle


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© flickr-John Zacherle

The solid portion at the base of the building houses NEIU’s art collection in a linear gallery which connects the expansive, double-height multi-purpose/lobby area with the student resource center at the opposite end. From there the building rises along with tiered theater style seating which define the space and connect it to the stacked classrooms on the second and third floors. The building culminates at the student lounge where the ceiling sweeps upward, drawing your view to the Chicago skyline, and pulling you outside to a lush green terrace.

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© flickr-John Zacherle

The NEIU El Centro Campus is a project completely engrossed in and belonging to its location and community and reinforces Chicago\u2019s identity as a city rich in educational and architectural cultures.

Northeastern-Illinois-University-El-Centro-By-JGMA-39-Tom-Rossiter-759x506 Northeastern Illinois University - El Centro / JGMA

© Tom Rossiter

Project Data:

Project name: El Centro
Location: 3390 N Avondale Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60618, United States
Coordinates: 41.942587, -87.714675
Type: Educational Center
Program: Classrooms, labs, lounges, etc.
Site area: n/a
Project Area: 66,000 sq.ft / 6,000 sqm
Construction Period: May 2013 – September 2014
Status: Built
Cost/Budget: $27 million
Completion Year: 2014
Opening Date: August 1, 2016
Visit Northeastern Illinois University’s Website: here

Awards:

  • 2016 – Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design Awards – Green Good Design Award
  • 2016 – Premio Colombian Diaspora Architectural Awards (PAD) – Biennial PAD Award
  • 2016 – Re-thinking The Future RTF Awards – Category: Institutional (Built) – First Award
  • 2016 – American Architecture Prize – Category: Architectural Design / Educational Buildings – Platinum
  • 2016 – ULI The Urban Land Institute Awards – Category: Innovation in Education
  • 2016 – Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards – The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award – Architectural Excellence in Community Design
  • 2015 – The American Institute of Architect (AIA Awards) – AIA Chicago Awards – Category: Distinguished Building – Excellence Award
  • 2015 – Chicago Building Congress Awards – Category: New Construction under $55M – Merit Award

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Northeastern Illinois University
Architects:

  • JGMA – 218 S Wabash Ave Suite 200 Chicago, IL 60604, United States

Lead Designer: Juan Gabriel Moreno
Design Team: Michael Cady John Rausch Kevin Meyer

General Contractor: George Sollitt Construction Company

Engineers:

  • MEP/FP Engineer: Primera Engineers
  • Structural Engineer: Forefront Structural Engineers
  • Civil Engineer: Prism Engineering

Consultants:

  • Landscape Architect: Site Design Group
  • Acoustic Consultant: Arup
  • Electrical: BEI
  • Plumbing: Chas, Bruckner and Son
  • Heating: FE Moran
  • Ventilation: Wolf Mechanical
  • Fire Protection: US Fire

Text Description: © Courtesy of JGMA, Northeastern Illinois University
Images: © JGMA, Tom Rossiter, flickr-John Zacherle

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