Inside the shell of a building owned by candy giant Mars, architects at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill are cooking up a futuristic lab for advanced manufacturing research.
After President Barack Obama announced his adopted hometown of Chicago would host one of the country’s first innovation hubs for manufacturing, local designers and politicos wasted no time getting the gears in motion. On June 4, the University of Illinois signed a lease for 94,000 square feet of the former Republic Windows and Doors facility on Goose Island, 1333 North Hickory Avenue. The new building will house a consortium of Midwest universities and companies known as UI Labs’ Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII). It is slated to open in the first quarter of 2015.
“Our thought was that with this facility being planted here, it would make people notice that a lot of things could happen on Goose Island,” said SOM’s Brian Lee. The artificial island on the North Branch of the Chicago River has a long industrial history, but today it finds itself surrounded by residential communities. Still designated one of the city’s Planned Manufacturing Districts, however, Goose Island would seem a natural fit for the kind of advanced manufacturing pilot projects championed by President Obama.
“We definitely see UI Labs leading the next generation of development on Goose Island,” said SOM’s Diane Hoffer-Schurecht. “Long-term we think it could be rebranded as advanced manufacturing with a light touch, environmentally. It could evolve into a combination of manufacturing and community space.”
SOM’s design revolves around transparency, adding glass storefronts and window bays to the existing exterior. Inside, a glass wall is all that separates the open office-style group workspace from hands-on research happening on the factory floor.
Funded by a grant from the Defense Department to the tune of $70 million, and helped along by city and state tax incentives totaling $26 million more, the manufacturing institute aims to become self-sustaining through licensing fees, royalties, and consulting income.
“As we tackle specific technology projects, our new Goose Island headquarters will become a magnet for the best manufacturing brains in the country,” said Dean Bartles, the executive director of the institute. “And as we spread the word of this transformation in American manufacturing, Goose Island will become the focal point for our campaign.”