S. R. Crown Hall, the esteemed creation of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, stands as a testament to modern architecture’s potential to marry form with function in a harmonious balance. As a pivotal part of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, Crown Hall not only encapsulates Mies’s design ethos but also continues to inspire and shape the contours of architectural education.
Crown Hall Technical Information
- Architects: Mies Van Der Rohe
- Renovation: Krueck and Sexton Architects
- Location: Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago, Illinois, United States
- Topics: Minimalism
- Area: 26,400 ft2 per floor (2450 m2 )
- Project Year: 1950 – 1956
- Photographs: © Pete Sieger
The clearest structure we have done, the best to express our philosophy.
– Mies Van Der Rohe 1-2
Crown Hall Photographs
Crown Hall: A Masterwork of Modernism
Constructed between 1950 and 1956, Crown Hall is the centerpiece of Mies’s master plan for the IIT campus, a plan that boasts the highest concentration of his works globally. The building’s significance was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the most significant structures of the twentieth century.
Mies’s approach to Crown Hall was both innovative and daring, diverging from his standard steel and glass structures to create a space that is virtually column-free. This design choice fosters a ‘universal space’ — a flexible, open area that can adapt to the ever-changing needs of its occupants. The main floor, an expansive area of 120′ x 220′ feet with an 18-foot ceiling, is a dynamic educational environment where students and faculty engage without the traditional constraints of compartmentalized classrooms.
The structural ingenuity of Crown Hall is prominently displayed through its roof, which is suspended from the undersides of four steel plate girders supported by exterior steel columns. This allows for an unobstructed interior, facilitating an environment conducive to creative collaboration and interaction.
Surrounded by tranquil green spaces that insulate it from the bustling city, the building provides serene views of Chicago’s skyline. This relationship with its surroundings is crucial, as Mies designed the building to ensure that the influx of natural light and scenery enhances the working conditions within.
In August 2005, a significant renovation helmed by Krueck and Sexton Architects revitalized Crown Hall, addressing years of deferred maintenance and modernizing its facilities without compromising the building’s original aesthetic. The restoration work has been widely celebrated, earning multiple awards and cementing Crown Hall’s status as an architectural icon.
As a Chicago Landmark and a National Historic Landmark, Crown Hall not only remains a functional space for the IIT but also a pilgrimage site for those who seek to understand the depths of Mies van der Rohe’s architectural philosophy. Crown Hall, in its minimalism and functional openness, remains a physical embodiment of Mies’s belief in “less is more,” a principle that continues to resonate within the architectural discourse today.
In conclusion, the Crown Hall is a living legacy of Mies van der Rohe’s vision of modernism — a vision that continues to educate, inspire, and challenge the norms of architectural design. It stands as a reminder that the essence of great architecture lies in its ability to transcend time through simplicity and purpose.
Crown Hall Plans
Crown Hall Image Gallery
About Mies Van Der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a pioneering figure in Modernist architecture, renowned for his minimalist aesthetic and philosophy that “less is more.” Born in Germany, he became one of the leading lights of the Bauhaus movement before emigrating to the United States in 1937. Mies’s work is characterized by its clarity of form, mastery of materials, and the thoughtful expression of structure. His designs stripped away ornamentation to focus on the beauty of simplicity and the inherent qualities of components such as steel and glass. As the director of the architecture program at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Mies influenced generations of architects with his rationalist design approach and iconic creations like Crown Hall, the Farnsworth House, and the Seagram Building.
Notes & Additional Credits
- Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously described Crown Hall by saying it was “the clearest structure we have done, the best to express our philosophy.” He also referred to it as “almost nothing,” showcasing his commitment to minimalism and the essence of the modernist principle “less is more.” These quotes reflect his vision for Crown Hall as a paragon of clarity, simplicity, and structural expression.
- Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography by