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Bartlett Commons

Bartlett Commons

Built in 1901, this former gymnasium was restored and transformed into the University of Chicago’s beloved dining hall, Bartlett Commons.

University of Chicago
Chicago, IL
Completed: 2002 64,000 sf

Bartlett Commons, built in 1901 as the University of Chicago’s major athletic facility, had fallen into disrepair. The University’s goals were to reclaim and restore the significant neo-gothic building; encourage a spirit of association on campus; and reinforce the identity and social experience of the undergraduate residential “houses.” The school landmark is now a major 550-seat, three-story dining hall and gathering space.

Features of the new Commons include an exhibition cooking servery, themed food stations and a late-night convenience store. New materials, colors and details enhance the building’s historic features. The Commons’ iconic suspended running track is restored as lounge space. Bruner/Cott carefully preserved the limestone, timber and steel shell of the building, and a new energy-efficient, full-length skylight fills the space with natural light.

Repairs used original limestone harvested from areas of the building covered by the new addition. Contemporary systems include a new central production kitchen, major truck loading dock, 250 tons of HVAC, elevators, and full code upgrades. A gently sloped seating area provides full accessibility to the building without ramps or railings.


  • 2002 Midwest Construction, Project of the Year
  • 2002 BSA Honor Award for Design
  • 2003 BD+C Reconstruction Awards, Grand Winner
  • 2003 BSA Higher Education Facilities Design Award
  • 2006 ACUI Facility Design Award
  • 2006 AIA Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture