Oct 19th 2021

​Restoration of Mies-Designed Post Office Wins Faculty Member a Preservation Award

Chicago’s Federal Center is a city icon and home to three Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed buildings, including the Loop Station United States Post Office, which recently underwent a scrupulous restoration by a team from BRUSH Architects. Among the team members is Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture Adjunct Professor Aura Venckunaite, who played a crucial role in bringing the post office back to its former glory.

The restoration project recently received the Civic/Institutional Design Award of Excellence from Docomomo, an organization that champions the preservation of Modern architecture. Docomomo praised the team for its “solid forensic research and humble approach to the restoration.”

That research included, among other things, identifying the closest color match to the steel-and-glass building’s original matte “thundercloud gray” hue through color analysis and referencing historical documentation. The restoration also involved the repair and reconstruction of the original steel framing and mullions, which deteriorated due to decades of harsh Chicago weather, and the application of protective coatings. The BRUSH team documented and analyzed the corrosion of the steel at various points on the building to know where to add different kinds of treatment to the steel.

Restoring such a significant portion of the Federal Center is a monumental task. In addition to being one of Mies’ last projects (which saw completion five years after his passing), the building is praised by many as one of the greatest examples of his “less is more” philosophy. The Federal Center was also a groundbreaking minimalist design for a government building; previously, government buildings were typified by pomp and ornate design elements.

“It was extremely exciting to work on a Mies project,” says Venckunaite. “Personally, I learned so much more about the building while working on it. All Mies projects, big or small, present extreme attention to detail. What stands out to me in all his work is the minimal aesthetics achieved through creative solutions on multiple scales.”

Image courtesy BRUSH Architects.