History

Photo: Hedrich Blessing
The discipline of architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology is as old as the school itself. In 1895, the trustees of Armour Institute (IIT’s predecessor institution) and the Art Institute merged the architecture offerings of both schools into the Chicago School of Architecture of Armour Institute. The program produced generations of influential architects who rebuilt Chicago into a modern city after the Chicago fire. Among those who were involved with the school were Louis Millet, Daniel Burnham, John Root, and William Le Baron Jenney.

IIT’s College of Architecture forged its modernist reputation at the hands of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the former head of the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, who became head of IIT’s Department of Architecture in 1938. He developed a carefully thought-out curriculum that was to become standard pedagogy: students first learned to draw, then mastered the use of building materials, and finally learned the fundamental principles of construction before undertaking building design.

Within a year of Mies’ arrival, he was commissioned to design an innovative master plan that encompassed the entire campus. His vision defined a new campus for IIT—a campus selected in 1976 by AIA-National as one of the top 200 architectural achievements in the United States. Mies’ masterpiece, S.R.Crown Hall, conceived as the ideal home for the department of architecture, was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1997 and a National Historic Landmark in 2001. Because of IIT’s commitment to maintaining, renewing and renovating its historic Main Campus, which houses the largest collection of Mies buildings anywhere, the university’s academic campus was added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Parks Service in 2005.

After Mies retired in 1958, a succession of deans and Architecture chairs continued for the next 13 years. In 1985, Architecture initiated a new graduate program: the first professional degree Master of Architecture.

In 1996 a national search resulted in the appointment of Dean Donna V. Robertson FAIA. She was challenged to stabilize the College’s operations and address the need to thoroughly examine all assumptions about the program’s content, process and procedures. In 1996-97 scrutiny was made of all aspects of the program and a five-year plan developed and accepted by the Board in Fall 1998.

During the nineties, the College began to refashion its program to incorporate fundamental principles while having students develop information through discovery, integrate it within the core of learning and then apply this knowledge to increasingly complex design decisions.

In Fall 2003, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) moved its headquarters to the College. In 2006, Antony Wood RIBA was named the new Executive Director of the CTBUH. His teaching and management responsibilities include leading the shared research enterprises and teaching modules on design, construction and tall buildings. The Executive Director role is combined with a faculty position at the College.

Related

Mies van der Rohe Society
IIT Campus Architecture

In 2005, the entire academic campus of IIT was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

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