S. R. Crown Hall Completed
S. R. Crown Hall, designed by the German-born Modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is the home of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois.
Widely regarded as Mies van Der Rohe's masterpiece, Crown Hall is one of the most architecturally significant buildings of the 20th Century Modernist movement. Crown Hall was completed in 1956 during Mies van der Rohe's tenure as director of IIT's Department of Architecture.
Centrally located on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, two miles south of downtown Chicago, Illinois, the building houses the architecture school. The two level building is configured as a pure rectangular form, 220' by 120' by 24 feet high, enclosing a column free interior space on the upper level sitting above a sunken lower level. The roof is supported by exposed steel columns supporting exterior steel girders visible above the roof. Crown Hall is characterized by an aesthetic of industrial simplicity, with clearly articulated exposed steel frame construction. The steel frame is infilled with large sheets of glass of varying qualities of transparency, resulting in a light and delicate steel and glass facade wrapping the open plan, free flowing interior of the upper level. While the lower level consists of compartmentalized rooms, the high upper floor level, occupying almost 50% of the total area of the building, is dedicated to a single glass-enclosed architecture studio space. Mies called it a "universal space", intended to be entirely flexible in use.
Upon its opening, Mies van der Rohe declared it "the clearest structure we have done, the best to express our philosophy". One critic calls it the Parthenon of the 20th Century.
S.R. Crown Hall was named a Chicago Landmark in 1997, a National Historic Landmark in 2001, and the remainder of the IIT Main Campus was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
In August 2005, a major renovation was completed, rescuing the building from years of lagging maintenance, enhancing its accessibility and functionality, improving overall energy and environmental performance, and restoring Crown close to its 1956 appearance. The original 'Detroit graphite' lead paint was stripped from the structural steel and replaced with a lead-free black Tnemec urethane coating. The glazing was completely replaced with panes and stops that meet current wind load requirements. True sandblasted glass, original to the building but absent since a prior renovation, was installed in the lower panes. The entire travertine-paved south terrace was replaced. Interior wood partitions and storage lockers were refinished and resurfaced, and additional electrical and ethernet wiring was added to the main floor.
Nothing better expresses Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's philosophy than S. R. Crown Hall, home to the College of Architecture, and a modern masterpiece that Time magazine calls "one of the world's most influential, inspiring and astonishing structures."
Designed by Mies in 1956, Crown Hall cohesively represents his architectural concepts and theories in their most complete and mature form. A National Historic Landmark, Crown Hall is a straightforward expression of construction and materiality, which allows the structure to transcend into art. Its refinement and innovation place it among the most distinguished buildings of its age and define its importance in the history of architecture.
The column-free open plan of the main floor of Crown Hall demonstrates Mies' innovative concept of creating universal space that can be infinitely adapted to changing use. Its expansive size of 120' x 220' feet in floor area, with a ceiling height of 18 feet, allows individual classes to be held simultaneously without disruption while maintaining creative interaction between faculty and students.
The roof of the building is suspended from the underside of four steel plate girders. The girders are themselves supported by eight exterior steel columns, spaced at 60 foot intervals. The interior is divided by free-standing oak partitions that demark spaces for classes, lectures and exhibits.
Tour groups regularly come and go.
The recent restoration of Crown Hall's exterior received the 2006 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Project of the Year from Landmark Illinois, a 2006 Citation of Merit from AIA Chicago, and a 2005 Honor Award from Chicago Landmarks Commission.