Crisis and Renewal: From the National Commission for IIT to the MTCC by Rem Koolhaas

Since the 1940s, the buildings added to the IIT Campus in Chicago had either been designed by Mies van der Rohe himself or largely informed by his example and teachings. With the Harold Leonard Stuart Building from 1971 by the SOM partner and former Mies student Myron Goldsmith, this era ends. On the main campus, new buildings were not added for more than thirty years, the institution facing a severe crisis by the early nineties. A National Commission, convened in 1993, instigated a period of substantial renewal, comprising a ten-year philanthropic campaign and a masterplan for the development of the campus. In 2003 two new major constructions were completed: the State Street Village dormitories by Helmut Jahn, and the McCormick Tribune Campus Center by OMA/Rem Koolhaas. Three decades after Mies’ death, the designs had to confront an environment which by then had acquired a canonical status in the history of modern architecture. The project for the MTCC in particular appears to reflect the approach and impact of the “American Mies” as much as the cultural shift separating the two eras. The paper reconstructs the events and dynamics that led to the campus’ renewal at the turn of the century, while focusing on the intricate reactivity underlying Koolhaas’ vision of the MTCC. The paper provides a close reading of the project, based on the study of the contexts pertinent to its conception: the Miesian legacy of the IIT Campus; the initiatives induced by the National Commission comprising the masterplan by Dirk Lohan and the competition in 1997-8 from which OMA’s project emerged; the architectural approach of the competing entries; and, the cultural climate of the first post-cold war decade, as reflected by Koolhaas’ research at Harvard and the publications he (co)-authored during this period.

Published in:
South Side Modern: IIT and the building of Chicago
Presented at:
"South Side Modern" Workshop, Chicago, USA, August 26-27, 2019
[Volume in press]

 Record created 2020-03-12, last modified 2020-03-19

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