S.R. Crown Hall
Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)
3360 South State St. (entrance to the south, between 33rd & 34th St.)
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Pace Assocs. and C. F. Murphy Assocs., associate architects
Crown Hall, IITs College
of Architecture building, is the centerpiece of a master campus plan designed by Mies van
der Rohe in 1940. It has a grace and elegance that the brick and glass buildings around it
do not, perhaps because, as Kevin Harrington, in the AIA Guide to Chicago writes:
"Crown Hall departs from
the module that Mies established for the campus in his master plan. As a result,
it...becomes what Mies called representational...[which] must declare the highest purposes
and ideals of the institution."
The visitor ascends two
thresholds to enter the building: low-rise stairs to a wide, uncovered, floating slab, and
then a second stairway to the entrance doors. This entry procession helps
"elevate" the building from its rather uninhabited and plain surroundings. There
is a similar threshold procession to Mies' Farnsworth
House in Plano, Illinois.
Of the structure of Crown Hall,
Harrington writes: "During the day, Crown Hall seems a precisely defined,
translucent, and transparent volume in perfect repose. At night it becomes a reliquary of
light, as its interior illumination appears to make the building seem almost to float on a
cushion of light."
The IIT campus is of great
recent architectural interest, as Rem Koolhaas of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture
(OMA) was recently awarded the commission to build a new student center near Crown Hall
and the train stop. His project wraps the length of the train stop in a hollow stainless
steel tube to contain noise, and proposes a rather indescribable urban strategy--neither
building nor city--to inhabit the space on either side of the train stop. Mies casts a
long and devilish shadow over all architects; OMAs gelatine models struck me as
delectable filling injected into the spatially crisp master plan and low-slung
exoskeletons of IIT.
Christy Rogers, 1998
How to visit
The building is locked on
weekends. Tours are available , but only by special arrangement through IITs Office
of Public Relations: +1 312 567 3104.
The Chicago Architecture
Foundation visits IIT by bus, on its "Architectural Highlights by Bus" tours:
(312) 922-TOUR. For those driving, take the Dan Ryan Expressway to the 31st St. exit (or
the 35th St. exit, if you are coming from the south); and proceed to 33rd St. Visitor
parking is just past State St. on the southeast corner.