Architectural History

S.R. Crown Hall, ca. 1960s-1970s

Throughout Illinois Institute of Technology’s history, campus architecture and the Department of Architecture have been closely linked. From the turn of the century brick Main Building to Mies van der Rohe’s modernist landmarks, campus plans have been shaped by the pedagogy and faculty of the Department of Architecture while the Department has drawn inspiration and reputation from the campus.

IIT’s first campus was housed in the buildings of Armour Institute, one of IIT’s two predecessor schools. Towering on either side of Federal St., these Romanesque revival buildings formed a canyon-like tunnel sometimes nicknamed “the Gorge.” These buildings, including the Mission Building, Armour Flats, Main Building, and Machinery Hall, had been variously used as workers housing, a Christian mission, and primary school in the 1880s and 90s, but by 1940 had been thoroughly overtaken by the functions of the growing university. However, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s arrival in 1938 marked a turning point for campus architecture. In addition to leading the newly added School of Architecture, Mies was also tasked with designing a new, modern campus for the growing university. Though the entirety of that plan never came to fruition, Mies is responsible for almost twenty of the buildings on campus. The best known, S.R. Crown Hall, was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 2001 and is widely recognized as a milestone of mid-century modernism. After Mies’ departure in 1958, architects from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and other local firms completed the campus in approximation of his style. Campus construction was largely absent from the early 1970s until the turn of the century.

In addition to shaping campus architecture, Mies van der Rohe also expanded the Department of Architecture from a small satellite offering to an internationally recognized program. Before Mies’ arrival, architecture was taught at Armour Tech and later IIT through a joint program with the Art Institute of Chicago and was housed in the Art Institute’s Michigan Avenue building. When Crown Hall was completed in 1956, the Department of Architecture gained a permanent home on the main campus. Under Mies’ direction, the curriculum and reputation of the program grew, and attracted notable architects to its faculty including Alfred Caldwell, whose landscape design remains integral to IIT’s campus today.

IIT launched a major campus renewal project in 1995. Beginning with a study by the Urban Land Institute implemented by Lohan Associates in 1996 and finishing with new landscaping by Peter Lindsay Schaudt in 2000, the project restored and renovated much of the original “Mies Campus.” The 1990s also saw the first major new construction in three decades. In 1997 the jury of an international competition selected Rem Koolhaus’ design for the McCormick Tribune Campus Center, which opened in 2003, as did the State Street Village residence hall, designed by IIT Architecture alum Helmut Jahn. The Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, designed by IIT Architecture professor John Ronan, is expected to be completed in late 2018, continuing a tradition of close ties between the Department and campus.

OUR HOLDINGS

Though University Archives and Special Collections is not the official repository for the papers of Mies van der Rohe, we do hold collections related to Mies’ built and planned campus buildings as well as documentation of his tenure at IIT. More extensive holdings include collections related to  later campus plans and construction, including the Lohan Master Plan, Peter Lindsay Schaudt’s campus landscaping redesign, and the design contest that resulted in the construction of the McCormick Tribune Campus Center. Collections from the College of Architecture include promotional materials, documentation of symposia and exhibits, and administrative records. We hold plans, designs, and drawings related to many, but not all, campus buildings.

RESEARCH USE

Information about campus buildings and landscaping can be found in the Building and Grounds Records, the East Map Case Collection, and the Campus Plans Collection. We also have some building-specific collections, such as the McCormick Tribune Campus Center Records and Alumni Memorial Hall collection that contain plans, drawings, and documentation. Images of the campus and its buildings from the 1940s through the 1980s can be found in the IIT Campus Aerial photographs, 1940-2002 and the Office of Communications and Marketing photographs, 1905-1999. Materials relating to Mies, campus architecture, and other topics can also be found in many collections not explicitly related to the topic of architecture. Information related to campus architecture, planning, and construction can be found in the meeting minutes of IIT’s Board of Trustees and Executive Committee, the papers of former University President Henry T. Heald, and Tech News and its predecessor student newspapers. In addition, each campus building has a reference file that can direct researchers to additional resources in and outside of University Archives and Special Collections.

SELECTED COLLECTIONS

SUGGESTED SEARCH TERMS

DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

 

 

Image Credit
S.R. Crown Hall, ca. 1960s-1970s
Collection: Office of Communications and Marketing photographs, 1905-1999