At the heart of the University of Illinois Chicago Circle stood a classical amphitheater known as The Circle Forum.  This was the center of campus life, home to concerts, performances, and student protests.  On an average day, the Forum was used for hanging out with friends, studying between classes, practicing an instrument, or napping.  Nine rows of stone benches formed semicircles to the north and south around a slightly raised circular platform in the center.  The simplest way to travel from one building to another in the campus core was to pass through this area.

Inspired by classical motifs such as the Agora in ancient Greece, the Forum and the Lecture Centers represented the center of learning, the place where students and their teachers gathered to discuss ideas.  From there, learning extended outwards in all directions.  “What happens between classes came to be regarded as being as important as what happens in classes,” said Walter Netsch.  His campus design facilitated “the meeting-in-the-corridor on a grand scale.”

One level higher, the roofs of the surrounding Lecture Center buildings formed a vast plaza called The Great Court.  This space was an urban campus version of the traditional campus quadrangle.  Granite replaced the traditional lawn, but the space was used in much the same ways as traditional quads: as a place to meet with friends to talk, study, blow off steam, or sunbathe.

The Great Court was punctuated by four seating areas, known as excedras, which echoed the Forum on a smaller scale.  Short walkways to the east and west tied The Great Court to the Chicago Circle Center and the Library and featured stairs down to the Lecture Centers.  The north and south elevated walkway corridors tied this central structure to all the surrounding campus buildings. The main entrance to campus buildings was on the second level.

For more, see these UIC ARCHIVES collections:

  • 086 Photograph Subject File
  • 003-23-00-01 The Historic Netsch Campus at UIC, 2008
  • 000-00-18 Walking About UIC: Reading Urban Texts, 1999
  • 070-00-01 Chicago Illini (student newspaper)
  • 003-21-02 Office of the UIC Historian — Research and Administrative Records

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