Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at Illinois Institute of Tech | The Plan
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Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at Illinois Institute of Tech

A Classical temple of the third millennium

John Ronan Architects

The IIT campus was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe on an expansive site in Chicago’s Near South Side. Originally a mixed-use neighborhood, IIT is today close to block after block of impoverished housing and major traffic infrastructure including Chicago’s famous elevated train. Mies also designed several dozen buildings for the ambitious new campus, from the iconic Crown Hall and laboratories - temples for the technological faithful - to smaller components such as the IIT chapel and boiler house. If the IIT campus is marked by a pragmatic, at times bleak, mid-century Modernism, it also on occasion beguiles with the physical evidence of Mies’s sublime skill. In the late 20th Century, the IIT campus had seemed locked in its Miesian legacy, unable or unwilling to evolve and incorporate new voices or, arguably, new needs into its physical plant. That status quo was challenged by Rem Koolhaas / OMA with the McCormick Tribune Campus Center. That design inflects Mies’s orthogonality by dipping beneath the elevated trainlines and animates it by threading diagonals (like another Dutchman, Theo van Doesburg, in his art a century ago) across the campus grid. Programmatically, the McCormick Center not only acknowledged but capitalized on the informal, interconnected nature of student life today. Now fifteen years after McCormick, the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship gives IIT another welcome intercession. Designed by John Ronan Architects, celebrated for the Poetry Foundation (2011) in Downtown Chicago, this standalone building channels Mies’s strict orthogonality and famed attention to detail while unmistakably belonging to the 21st Century. It is another rectilinear pavilion but with two carved-out patios to literally bring the surrounding campus into the heart of the new institute and with an upper skin of translucent ETFE panels that elegantly signal change within Mies’s classic masterplan....

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