Nobel Laureates Case Study

University of Chicago Booth London Campus

What was the project?

Astudio reached out to Midton to aid in production of a feature wall for The University of Chicago Booth School of Business’s new campus. The design was a wall lighting installation featuring plaques of all the Nobel Laureates who were alumni of the University of Chicago. Each plaque would include a photo, name, and information about each laureate.

The lighting installation was for the grand stairway in the heart of the building, in the reception area. The materials palette for the project combines industrial raw dark grey steel, with matte natural oiled walnut as a modern take on the school’s impressive past. This would reflect the prestigious history of Chicago Booth, while also drawing on a new innovative design to create an effective and empowering educational environment.

Astudio wished to experiment with acrylic following their own research. Their search revealed the benefits of using acrylic for lighting installations, to give an impressive, illuminated effect to the reception and lounge area. 

Who is astudio?

Astudio are architects who have been named Architectural Practice of the Year, by Building magazine, in recognition of their work. Astudio works with the belief that humility, an ability to listen, and a clear intellectual vision make projects work. The architectural practice was hired by The University of Chicago Booth School of Business to design and fit their new campus.

Founded in 1899, Chicago Booth is the second-oldest business school in the U.S. They have had a London base for 15 years and to mark this milestone, they sought a new campus. This new building will be the European home for Booth’s renowned Executive MBA programme, alongside additional education programmes. The office is based in the heart of London’s financial district, a stone’s throw away from St Paul’s Cathedral.

Nobel Laureates on Wall

How did we achieve this?

Astudio first contacted us with a list of laureates, imagery, and a blurb about each. This information was to be embedded in a clear acrylic plaque. At Midton, our design team suggested a variety of designs to be used within the campus. Biggest concerns were seen in the visual effects of the photo. The photos showed to be striking when entering the building, and walking up the stairs. However, from behind, on walking back down, the photo was not visible, ruining the illusion.  

To combat this, we suggested composing the image of dots. This would mean that the plaque would be transparent, and images would be seen from both sides without imposing the other. However, astudio settled on the use of an embedded printed card, with opaque imagery on either side of the plaque. From this, we refined the design and proceeded to production with the first batch.

Although a promising first start, we noticed that, after casting, there was a slight shadow between the paper. The images were so defined and dark, you could see a shadow of the reverse print. To solve this, we flipped the image on the reverse side so there was no overlapping shadow. Additionally, we produced a black acrylic bar down the side of each black to reduce light hitting and causing further shadows. Through multistage casting, we created the base plaques.

To create the light fittings for this project, we worked carefully with Light Bureau. Light Bureau is a global award-winning Light Design & Consulting studio, established in 1999. Working with carefully selected manufacturing partners, Light Bureau develops bespoke project solutions, with offices in London and Oslo.

Last year, two of our Directors visited London to meet the team at Light Bureau. After a successful meeting, the studio proved to be the perfect match for the Chicago Booth project. Once we had finished production of the plaques, we passed them on to be completed with the lighting element. From this, the finished product was delivered to astudio to be installed.

Overall, the project was a huge success for astudio and Chicago Booth. Recently, the campus received an honourable mention in the 2020 LOOP Design Awards for Interior Design. By using acrylic, the grand stairway had a natural finish, blending to the surroundings, while honouring the laureates in a stunning installation.

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