Situated within the historic Naval Station Great Lakes, the United Service Organization’s (USO) Great Lakes Center provides a home away from home and place of respite and connection for service members and their families. Currently the largest naval training center in the United States, the Naval Station Great Lakes supports over 50 tenant commands and elements and more than twenty thousand Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, and Department of Defense civilians who live and work there. The renovation of the USO Great Lakes Center honors the history of the installation, opened in 1911, while providing modern amenities and comforts for today’s military members.
The intuitive design of the 15,000 sf center is focused on flexibility, familiarity, and ownership. Beyond the entrance, a casual café situated under the building’s historic, restored skylight links the two wings of the building into one cohesive space. To the right of the café is the library, gathering, and reflection area ideal for small groups and quiet activities. To the left, the space is designed for music, art, and recreation, complete with a pool table, dedicated professional e-gaming, outdoor competitive gaming, and a music room. The facility also provides pathfinder offices, a multi-purpose room, back-of-house support, and a kids’ room.
The design of the space embraces the history of the organization while looking to the future. The existing structure, ceiling, and skylight have been restored, paying homage to the building’s original design. Modern materials and finishes reflect the energy and activity of the center. Warm wood tones and dark metals balance vibrant colors and geometric elements, which create a comfortable yet invigorating environment. The Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command and State Historic Preservation Office approved all the design processes.
In addition to the USO Great Lakes Center, Perkins Eastman’s Chicago workplace studio has completed work on USO’s headquarters and expansion, along with its Midway Airport baggage-claim location. The team is currently working on improvements at Midway’s Concourse Level C.