Walter Netsch began developing his signature Field Theory aesthetic during campus construction.  He changed building designs for the second and third construction phases to take advantage of this new concept.  Netsch devised Field Theory as an intellectual exercise in an effort to escape “the boredom of the box.”  He used the complex geometries taking a square and laying another square rotated 45 degrees on top.  This created “diagonally oriented squares or more complicated star-shaped clusters, specifically avoiding the build-up of large rectangular volumes or boxes with outthrusts—the almost universal way of building architectural shapes.”

Three unique Field Theory buildings built on Circle campus include: Art and Architecture, Behavioral Sciences Building, and Science and Engineering South.

  • Architecture and Art was the first Field Theory building.  Only 40 percent of the building was built in Phase Two.  The completed portion included departmental offices, a planned library, and studios.  The classroom wings that were to be added in a later phase were never built, leaving the building in an unfinished state that did not completely realize the design concept.
  • Behavioral Sciences Building is a four-story geometric structure west of what was Morgan Street where it passed under the elevated walkway to the University Hall Plaza.  Dating from the third phase of campus construction, the building combines concrete and brick in what Netsch considered his most sophisticated example of Field Theory design on campus.  The geometric complexity of the building renders the interior extremely difficult to navigate for the first-time visitors.
  • Science and Engineering South, also built in Phase Three, is the third Field Theory design building.  The two major wings of the building contain offices and laboratories to the east and classrooms and a library to the west.  A planned phase four addition was cancelled.  The covered breezeway area is where the elevated walkway connected to the building.


For more, see these UIC ARCHIVES collections:

  • 086 Photograph Subject File
  • 000-20-01 Personal Papers — Walter Netsch Collection, 1985. (contains audio recordings of a lecture given by Netsch and Campus Plan presentation boards).
  • 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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