? Crown Hall by Mies van der Rohe
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S.R. Crown Hall
Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)
3360 South State St.
(entrance to the south, between 33rd & 34th St.)
Chicago, Illinois

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Pace Assocs. and C. F. Murphy Assocs., associate architects

Crown Hall, IIT’s 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; OMA’s gelatine models struck me as delectable filling injected into the spatially crisp master plan and low-slung exoskeletons of IIT.


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Christy Rogers, 1998

How to visit

The building is locked on weekends. Tours are available , but only by special arrangement through IIT’s 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.

Directions are also available from http://www.iit.edu/iit/map/direct.html.

IIT is just north of Comiskey Park, and a long stretch of public housing projects; those uncomfortable in poor neighborhoods should take care not to get lost.

Books and other web sites

Click the book title to view and to order direct from


0226740609_m.gif (13814 bytes) Mies van der Rohe: A critical biography
Franz Schulze


0393315045_m.gif (5721 bytes) The Master Builders: Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright
Peter Blake

A highly readable introduction.



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