The University of Chicago master plan outlines $500 million of near-term and long-term campus improvements, all carefully integrated with its historic Gothic Revival campus.

NBBJ was selected by the University of Chicago to undertake a comprehensive campus master plan, the third such plan in the university’s history. Its purpose was to consider academic, research, and sports facility needs within the context of a built-up historic campus, while addressing the university president’s strategic directives: to be top five in all academic divisions, to increase undergraduate enrollment, and to improve the quality of campus life.

The plan identifies both near-term and long-term development opportunities. As it locates over $500 million of near-term campus improvements, it indicates the impact on open space, parking, utilities, and other campus amenities. It also establishes a clear set of guidelines to ensure that new construction is sympathetic to the Gothic legacy of the existing campus.


The plan provides guidelines for development that derive from the original design intent of the campus, addressing issues of building edges, portals and enclosures, and variation within unity. It also reinforces the quadrangle as an organizational principle, with key attributes of axes, symmetry, proportion, plantings and tree canopy, and building addresses.


The University of Chicago and its surrounding neighborhoods are built within the grid of the City of Chicago. The plan suggests reinforcing the existing campus and neighborhood land-use patterns through careful integration of new parking facilities, permeable and well-maintained campus edges, and shared campus and community recreation and retail services.


An essential element of the plan was to enhance student life, by integrating into the campus’ historic fabric a new recreation and aquatics center, dining hall, and student housing. The plan establishes a framework in which new development can be understood as helping to complete, rather than diminish, the campus character.

Campus Life

Another major recommendation is for future growth in the sciences, including site options for a major interdisciplinary research building that will symbolically and physically bridge the physical and biological sciences. The plan also suggests logical reuse or removal of older, soon-to-be-vacated science facilities.



ASLA Ohio Chapter, Merit Award