McCormick Tribune Campus Center
The complex by Rem Koolhaas forms a new nexus for the academic and residential corridors of IIT’s Main Campus.
The McCormick Tribune Campus Center is located at the historic 120-acre (50-hectare) campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago.
The campus, designed by Mies van der Rohe who became the head of IIT’s architecture program in 1938, after the closure of the Bauhaus, is bordered by an expressway and divided in half by the elevated trains.
Rather than disguising the elevated railway Koolhaas encircles it as it crosses the top of the building.
The railway has a huge impact on IIT’s character: to proclaim a new beginning we enclosed the section above the campus centre in an acoustically isolating stainless steel tube, releasing the potential of the land surrounding it and creating a crucial part of IIT’s image.
The new Campus Center includes two primary components: A 10,690 square meter, one-story building, sheathed in metal and glass, and a 161 meter (530 feet) long stainless steel tube that sits directly above the building’s roof, significantly muffling the noise and vibration generated by passing trains.
The one-story building serves a wide variety of student activity functions that include a welcome center, coffee bar, auditorium and meeting rooms, university bookstore, post office, convenience store, and computer room. The building is entered through a 20 foot tall glass portrait of Mies.
The interior layout was inspired by pre-existing footpaths, that criss-crossed under the train tracks, formed by students walking back and forth between residence halls and classroom buildings on the IIT Main Campus during the past 70 years.
The diagonal walkways are paved with shiny aluminum tiles, the walls are layers of transparent and translucent panels.
A long glass wall in the Welcome Center displays the portraits of several IIT founders.
A lower level computer room, with a 93-foot-long lighted shelf, is painted a bright red.
|How to inhabit a given territory with only half the population that animated it in the 1970s? To us the conundrum implies a building that is able to (re)urbanise the largest possible area with the least amount of (built) substance. Illinois Institute of Technology’s situation is exacerbated by the no-man’s-land either side of the elevated railway.
The physical heart of the campus is our project. By not stacking activities, but by positioning each programmatic particle as part of a dense mosaic, our building contains the urban condition itself.
To capture the sum of the student flows, the web of lines that connect the eastern and western campus destinations are organised through the campus centre to differentiate activities into streets, plazas and urban islands. Without fragmenting the overall building, each part is articulated according to its specific needs and positioned to create neighbourhoods (24-hour, commercial, entertainment, academic, utilitarian), parks and other urban elements in miniature.
The main federating element is the roof, a continuous concrete slab that shields the centre from the noise of the elevated railway while unifying the heterogeneity below.