Nov 21st 2022

Taking Tall Buildings to the Next Level with New College of Architecture Program

Every week 1 million new residents flock to the world’s cities, and Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture, in partnership with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), has launched a new, one-of-a-kind program that addresses rapid urbanization and its most prominent architectural feature: the tall building. The Master of Tall Building and Vertical Urbanism program welcomed its first students this fall.

“We, as a species on this planet, need to build the equivalent of Chicago every month,” says Antony Wood, director of the M.TBVU program and research professor of tall buildings, as well as CTBUH president “Tall buildings are an important part of the solution. But to ensure cities are places where people can thrive, we must do more than simply increase density. We need to integrate tall buildings more thoughtfully into both our urban and social fabrics.”

A sustainable and healthy city of the future is taking shape currently among the program’s first cohort. Students are designing a fictional city of 10 million people set in 2070s California while delving into the logistics and layout that push the limits of future construction, says Hsu Myat Aung (M.S.ARCH Candidate). “We want the city to be as sustainable as we can. We’re challenged to find and solve issues for energy production, water sources—we get to think beyond designing buildings to the urban functionality of a megacity,” Aung says.

The creation of the M.TBVU program bolsters the College of Architecture’s long history of innovation in skyscraper design and engineering. During Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s 20 years directing the architecture program, steel-and-glass high-rises were a burgeoning area of study. Later, educational pioneers such as Myron Goldsmith, David Sharpe, and Majhoub Elnimeiri made tall buildings a primary topic of research in the college. The structural and design research that they and their students conducted at Illinois Tech made some of Chicago’s most significant high rises—Sears (now Willis) Tower, the John Hancock Center (now 875 North Michigan Avenue), One Magnificent Mile, and Onterie Center—possible. Since then, College of Architecture alumni and faculty have played critical roles in creating cutting-edge skyscrapers around the world.

Though the program will focus on rigorous research and coursework in S. R. Crown Hall, it also will offer opportunities for students to exercise their skills beyond the Mies Campus. This will include traveling studios, international design competitions, research funding, conferences, and exclusive internships with some of the world’s leading firms.

The program will be guided by an Advisory and Teaching Panel. The panel comprises some of the world’s leading experts on tall building design, engineering, and development, including, among others: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Consulting Partner William Baker, the structural engineer behind the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building; Jeanne Gang, the architect of two of Chicago’s most noteworthy new skyscrapers, St. Regis Chicago and Aqua Tower; Gregg Pasquarelli, co-founder of SHoP Architects, designers of the world’s thinnest supertall building, 111 West 57th Street in New York; and Moshe Safdie, designer of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and Montreal’s renowned Habitat ’67.

“There’s more to this program than coursework: we’re inviting students to make connections with the industry,” says Wood. “Because of the CTBUH network, because of these collaborations with these companies, and because of IIT’s global reputation, I believe our students will be looking at great employment opportunities with some of the top companies in the world.”