The site for the new University of Illinois at Chicago Circle campus consisted of 105 acres at the corner of Halstead and Harrison streets. Originally, the campus was named University of Illinois at Congress Circle for the nearby Congress Interchange. That name for the junction between the Dan Ryan, Kennedy and Eisenhower expressways changed to the Circle Interchange in late 1964 (becoming the Jane Byrne Interchange in 2014) prompting the last-minute adjustment to the campus name just prior to its “unofficial” opening on February 22, 1965.
To design the campus, the university chose the firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, led by Architect Walter Netsch, who planned the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Netsch designed the campus in the Brutalist style based on the metaphor of a stone dropped in a pond of water. At the center was The Circle Forum, a Greek-styled amphitheater built for plays, assemblies and concerts. Each ripple outward from the center held buildings with common functions.
A series of elevated express walkways tied the campus together. The walkways served the practical purpose of moving an enormous number of students efficiently through the campus’ small footprint. The spine of the walkways was a north-south corridor that ran from the Polk Street entrance to the Chicago Transit Authority’s Halsted Street stop on the north to The Great Court in the campus core and from The Great Court to the parking lots and athletic fields south of Taylor Street.
Surrounding the campus was an eight-foot tall brick wall and a decorative metal fence that echoed the structure of tallest building on campus, the 28-story University Hall. The enclosed nature of the campus further alienated nearby residents who were already unhappy with the loss of a significant portion of the neighborhood for the university.
The Circle Campus Exhibit Sections: