William Eckhardt Research Center Enabling Projects

The Eckhardt Research Center (ERC) is a new, high performance building at the University of Chicago. The building is home to the Physical Sciences Division’s Dean’s Office, Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics and the Institute for Molecular Engineering.

In addition to serving as Associate Architect for the building with HOK as Prime Architect and presiding over all FF&E, IDEA oversaw the Enabling Projects which involved the planning and design of swing spaces for the relocation and staging of various departments while the new facility is built.

The Enabling Projects involved creating working spaces in six campus buildings totaling over 65,000 SF to accommodate displaced faculty and students. The most challenging was the 34,000 SF Accelerator Building which had previously been used to house dry labs for the Physical Sciences Division including a “high bay” used to assemble and package large items to be used in experiments conducted in space.


Transforming parts of the Accelerator Building from industrial/lab use to business/office space to meet both Chicago Building Code, the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) requirements proved challenging. Horizontal and vertical circulation issues were resolved by the addition of an elevator inside the building, while the special needs of the Physical Sciences Department were met with the addition of 2,100 SF server room and a 3,900 SF mezzanine level that created an enclosed Machine Shop.