Graduate commons, tiered classrooms, and cloisters in Saieh Hall for Economics


Econ students find their niches in the newly named Saieh Hall

With the transformation of the former Chicago Theological Seminary into a new home for the Griffin Department of Economics and the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, the building is filled with enticing spaces for students, faculty, and visiting scholars. Named for University Trustee Alvaro Saieh, AM’76, PhD’80—who made a significant donation to the 1920s building’s renovation and adaptive reuse—Saieh Hall for Economics opened its past-meets-present doors this fall.

It’s been four years since Ann Beha Architects were chosen to renovate the Gothic-inspired building, but the project really was “20 years in the making,” says Grace Tsiang, AM’83, PhD’91, codirector of the undergraduate economics program. She and others have spent that long designing a curriculum that gives economics undergraduates not only “the analytical tools to talk to faculty members” but also hands-on research experience, now supported by the Becker Friedman Institute. With all of economics in close, updated quarters, the vision has been realized.

This summer Tsiang showed off a few of her favorite student-centered spaces in Saieh Hall.

Graduate Commons

“This kind of casual meeting and talking space is important,” Tsiang says. In the former Taylor Chapel, modern lighting fixtures mix with originals to create a comfortable yet inspiring place to ponder economics theory and practice.

Tiered classrooms

“What we need is classroom space,” Tsiang says. The faculty had requests, from technology to “the highest quality blackboard slate.” This classroom can video conference with the University’s Center in Beijing, for example.


With weatherproof glass, tuckpointing, and preservation work, the cloisters can withstand Chicago winters. Students can buy a coffee from the Starbucks in the lobby and spend warm hours studying amid old brick and stone.

To learn more about Saieh Hall for Economics, visit