William Eckhardt Research Center FF&E

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 overseeing the Enabling Projects required for the new building and serving as Associate Architect, IDEA selected the furniture systems and individual furnishings for the lobbies, offices, open work areas, collaboration areas, conference rooms and laboratories.


It proved a significant challenge to successfully accommodate the varied needs of a diverse user-group that, in this case, includes the Dean’s office, faculty, post doctorates and graduate students, while also ensuring a cohesive aesthetic befitting a state-of-the-art research facility. Numerous hands-on workshops involved the Dean, Directors, Faculty and Students. Flexible spaces for student interaction were a priority, with some of these zones located in circulation paths and not defined by walls. Furniture clusters in specific colors were used to create “collision” zones, lounge areas and collaboration spaces throughout the building.

Private office needs varied greatly among staff. While there was agreement regarding a minimal design aesthetic, functional requirements for file and book storage challenged this goal. IDEA leveraged a modular component set to add or subtract elements per the needs of each individual while maintaining a cohesive design. In addition, a custom veneer credenza was created in collaboration with Knoll that addressed the varying storage needs of the faculty.