This past Wednesday, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) broke ground on its Bohlin Cywinski Jackson-designed (BCJ) Siebel Center for Design, a collaborative maker space for students in all majors.

The 59,000-square-foot building is designed for flexibility, and UIUC students will have access to laser and water-jet cutters, a prototyping studio, 3-D printers, and CNC tools spread across five collaboration studios, with room for 400 students. Rooms have also been carved out for video and virtual reality spaces, as well as digital audio recording. Students at UIUC will be given the option to pursue their interests beyond the core curriculum via workshops and extracurricular activities that will be offered at the center once it’s open.

A large common area has been carved out for flexible use. (Courtesy Bohlin Cywinski Jackson)

“We wanted to create a building that focuses on human-centered design, one that encourages students to think more broadly,” said BCJ founding principal Peter Bohlin in a press release. “Everything will have multiple uses — we imagine people utilizing the spaces in ways neither you nor I can predict.”

It appears the BCJ has taken a characteristically glassy approach to the Siebel Center (named after tech executive Tom Siebel, who donated $25 million for the project). The low-slung building will be wrapped in windows broken up with vertical metal mullions, which should allow the collaboration spaces, common areas, and galleries to be naturally lit throughout. From the renderings, it seems the interiors will be spacious and flexible so that students can repurpose the more open areas for exhibitions. Outside, BCJ has included numerous cantilevering overhangs for students to gather under.

Former executive director of the international design and consulting firm IDEO, Rachel Switzky, has been named as the center’s inaugural director.

BCJ is no stranger to the University of Illinois, or Tom Siebel for that matter; the firm completed the $50 million Siebel Center for Computer Science in 2004. Construction in the Siebel Center for Design should be completed in early 2020.

Related Stories