Working under extreme time and budget constraints, architect Walter Netsch developed a campus design concept based upon the urban setting, the size of the site, and a projected student population of 20,000, which increased to 32,000 in just a few years. The goal was a campus that could work at its initial size while growing quickly to its projected size. In its first five years, the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle was the fastest growing campus in the country, increasing from 5,000 to 17,500 students. To this day, it has not reached 32,000 students.

To enable large numbers of students to navigate the new campus efficiently, Netsch elevated much of the movement and activity to the second story level. The unique “pedestrian expressway system” served as a structuring element for the visual and functional organization of the campus while introducing an interplay of levels. At its center, the raised walkway system converged on an immense second floor expanse of granite and concrete which connected to major buildings to the east and to the west.

At the northern and southern entrances to campus, the walkways extended across major streets, allowing pedestrians to avoid traffic and enter the campus safely.

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