Law School Reflecting Pool Renovation
The University of Chicago
The University of Chicago Law School was designed by Eero Saarinen and constructed in the early 1960s, and is a modern classic. The reflecting pool and courtyard are located north of the Law School library, and over the years the Law School had become unhappy with the original reflecting pool which, due to the University’s quarter system and Chicago’s long winter season, was an unattractive empty basin for the a majority of the academic year.
The University hired Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. (WLA) to develop conceptual designs for the pool renovation, including the option of filling the pool with soil and replacing it with a lawn. Due to concerns about the historic design, the University elected to proceed with a zero-depth reflecting pool that in season would mimic the Saarinen reflecting pool but in winter would be a granite plaza flush with the surrounding paving. The landscape architect led and managed a multi-disciplinary team consisting of NHDKMP, the architect; Delta Fountains, water feature consultant; Weber Consultants, MEP engineer; and others to design and document a zero-depth reflecting pool that would reflect the law library building, respect the historic Saarinen design, and appear as a gracious plaza and forecourt during the off-season.
The 13,050 SF pool contains 1,450 of 3’ x 3’ black granite pavers on pedestals. Water wells up through open joints in the center of the pool, spreads to the edges, and returns via a ½” wide perimeter return slot. The stone was selected for its availability, price, and darkness, which makes the water appear deep when seen at a shallow angle, although it is only ¼” deep, and enables the water to reflect beautifully the Law School Library building. The fountain was constructed for a budget of $2.5 million (less than $200 / SF) in June 2008, including the fountain, paving, ADA improvements, and landscaping. The project received an Illinois Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects President’s Award in 2009.