University Apartments

University Apartments
  1. About the University Apartments in Chicago
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The University Apartments is an International Style skyscraper designed by I. M. Pei, with Araldo Cossutta as lead architect, and built between 1959 and 1961 in Chicago, IL.

University Apartments is not the only name you might know this building by though. It is common for companies to want to attach their names to iconic buildings when they move in, or for the general public to come up with nicknames, and this one is no exception. The University Apartments is also known, or has been known as, University Park Condominiums, or University Gardens Apartments.

Its precise street address is 1400-1451 E.55th Street, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The University Apartments is a structure of significant importance both for the city of Chicago and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the International Style style. Because of that, the University Apartments was officially included in the National Register of Historic Places on December 22nd 2005.

The two buildings are identical in their structure and layout. Their design was influenced by Le Corbusier's architecture, it rises on large rectangular concrete pillars, housing a lobby and outdoor communal spaces on the ground floor. Above this base there are 9 floors, with 270 residences in each building. Both buildings are separated by a garden courtyard.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Construction completed
Added to the NRHP
years ago

Architect and team

I. M. Pei, with Araldo Cossutta as the lead architect, was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design. But there was also one other architect involved, as far as we know. We are talking about Loewenberg & Loewenberg.

I. M. Pei and the other architects already mentioned were in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline, which usually involves many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but at the very least we know that there was one other part involved, that was August Komendant in charge of Structural Engineering.

Architectural Style

The University Apartments can be categorized as an International Style building.

The international style originated in Europe in the early 20th century, and made its way to the US a couple of decades later when the rise of the Nazi regime forced figures such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, or Mies van der Rohe to flee Europe.

The International Style emerged as a response to the prevailing historicism and ornate architecture styles of the late 19th century, which according to a younger generation of architects didn't represent the new materials and construction techniques that were on the rise at the time.

Architecture in the early 20th century US was marked by the adoption of steel structures, modern construction techniques, and the rise of the skyscraper. As it turns out, this combination of circumstances created the perfect ecosystem for the International Style to flourish, becoming the to-go style for skyscraper designs during the mid-20th century, when American cities were growing fast.

The International Style’s legacy can not only be found in numerous iconic buildings across all major American cities, but also incorporated in contemporary architecture, which still puts a big emphasis on functionality and minimalism.

The University Apartments was completed in 1961. By 1961 the International Style movement had already left its early days behind and could be considered a mature movement, which does not mean it was loved and accepted by everyone, on the contrary. The International Style was accepted by the architecture community way before it was by the general public, and it is therefore likely that the University Apartments was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The University Apartments reaches an architectural height of 308ft (94m). It has a total of 11 floors, 10 above ground and 1 basements, served by 8 elevators.

In regards to parking space, the building has a total of 220 spots available, which roughly equals 22 spots per floor (above ground).

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1961, the University Apartments has mainly been used as Residential space.

About the residences

The University Apartments has a total of 540 residential units throughout its 10 floors.

308ft (94m)
1 basements

Materials & Structure

The University Apartments uses a frame structure made of concrete columns and beams.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade of the building however, is load bearing. This doesn't imply that it is a traditional load-bearing wall. Rather, it means that the structure's exterior pillars have been pushed to the very edges, becoming integrated with the facade, and therefore, technically, a part of it.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a concrete wall that creates a lattice effect where the arched windows, extending from floor to ceiling and framed with aluminum, are deeply embedded. They form rows of 12 windows per floor on the east and west facades and 108 windows on the north and south facades, separated by concrete, structural columns.

Other materials found at the University Apartments include, bamboo wood, found on the floors of all apartments, and hard wood, used in solid doors of the closets.