Chicago landmark, S.R. Crown Hall, receives National Historic Landmark Status


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Chicago, IL — August 27, 2001 —

S. R. Crown Hall (1954-1956) has been awarded National Historic Landmark status by the National Park Service. Crown Hall, located on the Illinois Institute of Technology Main Campus in Chicago, is considered to be one of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s greatest examples of modernist architecture. The “one room schoolhouse” as it is often called, composed of a stark steel frame sheathed in glass. It is Mies’ earliest and most beautiful example of a large-scaled, open space, single room building.

Mies van der Rohe was Director of IIT’s College of Architecture from 1938 to 1958. He designed Crown Hall to house the College of Architecture and the Institute of design, which moved into Crown Hall upon its completion in 1956.

This award rightfully acknowledges one of the icons of 20th century architecture,” says Donna Robertson, current dean of IIT’s College of Architecture, which is still housed in Crown Hall. “Crown Hall continues to support Mies’ vision for a dynamic spatial and learning environment.”

National Historic Landmarks must be at least 50 years old to qualify, but Eric Thompson, IIT’s College of Architecture director of development, filed for the special designation under exception # 8 which states that “a property achieving national significance within the past 50 years may be eligible if it is of extraordinary national significance.”

“Crown Hall is highly significant in the world of architecture,” says Thompson. “It represents the finest example of Miesian architecture, which has played a crucial role in influencing post-war American architecture.” Mies revolutionized the skyscraper by introducing the curtain wall concept of a steel and glass window wall. Mies buildings can be found throughout the world.

In conjunction with receiving National Historic Landmark status, Crown Hall will also receive a $250,000 Getty Institute Conservation Grant. Given through the Getty Grant Program that supports the arts and conservation, the grant will be matched 2 to 1 through the IIT Capital Campaign, bringing the grant to $750,000. The grant will be used to begin restoration of Crown Hall’s exterior structure.

In 1976, the American Institute of Architecture’s national membership selected Crown Hall and IIT’s campus as one of the top 200 most important architectural achievements in America. In 1982, the United States Postal Service selected Crown Hall on a series of US postage stamps documenting notable American buildings. In 1996, it received City of Chicago Landmark status.

Crown Hall
Crown Hall is Mies’ only building whose visible structure is comprised entirely of steel and glass (the foundation is made of concrete). The unobstructed space in the 26,000 sq. ft. upper floor make its design a radical break from the traditional concept of the college classroom building, whose interiors are usually broken up into separate classrooms.

Crown Hall consists of an upper level raised 6 feet above the ground where architecture studio classes are held, and a slightly sunken lower level which is partitioned into offices, a multimedia lab, a library and a model shop. The steel skeleton of the building is infilled with glazed and clear glass and the steel is painted black. Stairs leading to the main entrance are thin slabs of travertine marble, which seem to float in front of the doors.

Crown Hall is considered the crown jewel of the Mies-designed IIT Main Campus. Mies designed the campus master plan to encourage the rehabilitation of the areas surrounding the campus and to put Illinois Institute of Technology on the map as a leader in technology and architecture. The preliminary plan, executed in 1938, when Mies came to IIT as director of the College of Architecture, consisted of several large buildings symmetrically grouped around open spaces. In 1941, Mies developed a second iteration of the plan, which was based on modules 24 feet square and 12 feet high. These modules gave rise to the lawns as well as to Perlstein Hall, Alumni Memorial Hall, Stuart Hall, E1 and several other original campus buildings. Considered a turning point for campus designs, IIT’s master plan was hailed as an architectural landmark and one of the greatest ensembles of buildings in the 20th century.

Between 1943 and 1968, building proceeded at breakneck speed, with an average of almost two buildings completed per year. In 1954, groundbreaking took place for S. R. Crown Hall. Crown Hall was dedicated on April 30, 1956 and lauded as one of the greatest architectural achievements of all time.

Mies’ distinct architectural style reduced buildings to their simplest element and invented Minimalism as a formal trait, which then became common in other art forms. Mies’ buildings often consisted of steel, glass and brick boxes or rectangles consisting of a single large open space. The utilitarianism of Mies’ structures is obvious – Crown Hall’s single room was designed as a place where architecture classes could take place at opposite ends of the Hall while students could still circulate freely throughout the building to collaborate with other students.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is an internationally recognized innovator and one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. He is considered the founder of modern American architecture and the International Style of architecture. Mies’ architectural principles are executed in famous Chicago buildings like the Federal Center, the IBM Center and 860-880 Lake Shore Drive residential towers. Mies also helped develop a comprehensive master plan for the Illinois Institute of Technology campus and designed nearly 20 individual buildings for it, comprising the largest and most important collection of Mies buildings anywhere. The IIT campus was one of the first post-war, federally funded “urban renewal” projects. Mies also designed dozens of other internationally significant buildings including the Seagram Building in New York, the Farnsworth House in Plano, IL and the Berlin New National Gallery. His students built Lake Point Towers near Navy Pier based on designs left by Mies after he passed away in 1969.

Tour Crown Hall and the IIT campus
Crown Hall is part of a bi-monthly 1 ½ hour tour run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. “Mies & Modernism - the IIT Campus," a walking tour of Illinois Institute of Technology's main campus takes place each third Wednesday and Saturday of the month from April to October, at 10 a.m. The tour will also visit the sites of recently initiated new projects including the McCormick Tribune Campus Center designed by Pritzker Prize winner, Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas.

Tour groups meet inside Perlstein Hall, located at 10 W. 33rd Street. The cost is $10 for adults, $7 for students and free for CAF members. For more information, contact CAF at 312.922.3432 or visit their Web site at

About Illinois Institute of Technology

Illinois Institute of Technology, also known as Illinois Tech, is a private, technology-focused, research university offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, science, architecture, business, design, human sciences, applied technology, and law. One of 16 institutions that comprise the Association of Independent Technological Universities (AITU), Illinois Tech offers exceptional preparation for professions that require technological sophistication, an innovative mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit.