Illinois Tech Completes Renovation of Mies van der Rohe-Designed Residence Hall

Illinois Tech Alumnus Dirk Denison Leads Design of Residence Hall Named for Late Alumnus George J. Kacek



By Howard J. Lee
Photo by Tom Harris

Illinois Institute of Technology has completed a year-long, $22.5 million heritage renovation of one of its Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed residence halls. Illinois Tech alumnus Dirk Denison, FAIA (ARCH ’83) designed the full renovation of the building—to be named after engineering alumnus George J. Kacek (EE ’54, M.S. ’55)—with Corvias leading development management and Gilbane Building Company responsible for construction. George J. Kacek Hall is open to students this fall.

“Kacek Hall is an innovative structure— reinvented yet inviting,” says Alan W. Cramb, president of Illinois Tech. “Living in Kacek Hall and attending classes at Chicago’s only tech-focused university will create a bridge between students’ residential experience and our great city. And through it, George Kacek’s legacy will serve as an inspiration for generations of students to come.”

Denison, of Dirk Denison Architects, won the commission to lead the design of the project, which included restoring the 74,000-square-foot, nine-story building that was originally used to house university staff, faculty, and married students after the end of World War II. Now, Kacek Hall, which was fully renovated down to its structure, provides students with generous communal spaces and innovative sustainable features to enhance students’ quality of life while maintaining the legacy of Mies.

“Adapting any historic structures designed by legendary architects for modern-day purposes is never an easy feat,” says Denison, a longtime professor of architecture at Illinois Tech. “The challenge is to be respectful of the legacy while providing dynamic spaces for today’s students, all within the context of sustainability and best practices.”

The renovation updates the design’s original brick infill and aluminum windows to meet high-performance criteria while retaining Mies’ structural expression and detailing. New fresh-air intake ventilation and air conditioning systems follow best practices for energy efficiency and reduction of airborne contaminants. Rooms and lounges span eight residential levels and are laid out in a pinwheel pattern that maximizes variety, access to natural light, and views of the campus, Lake Michigan, and the Chicago skyline.

In late 2018 Kacek bequeathed his entire estate—unbeknownst to the university or his family—to his alma mater upon his passing. When his planned estate gift was disclosed, university leaders dedicated the rehabilitated Mies-designed residence hall and established the endowed George J. Kacek Scholarship in honor of his generosity.

“It wasn’t so much that he made an estate commitment to his beloved Illinois Tech that was surprising,” recalls Stacey Kacek, niece and executor of George Kacek’s estate. “What was surprising to us all was the magnitude of my uncle’s fortune that he never talked about. We could not be more proud of him and his contribution to Illinois Tech.”

“George gave back to Illinois Tech in such an extraordinary way. Naming the newly renovated residence hall for an alumnus who greatly valued both his time at Illinois Tech and the education that helped launch his career serves the dual purpose of honoring the Kacek name in Chicago, as well as highlighting George’s commitment to Illinois Tech students,” adds Ernie Iseminger, vice president for advancement. “It’s through George’s philanthropy that we are able to welcome the first four Kacek scholars on campus this fall as well as offer this exceptional living environment. He is an inspiration for the Illinois Tech community and sets a wonderful example.”

Construction on Kacek Hall began in June 2019. Denison credits Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for designating housing construction as essential during the pandemic, and Gilbane Building Company for keeping the project on schedule, navigating supply disruptions, and ensuring a safe job site with no incidents.

“To have an opportunity to revitalize a building designed by Mies and to modernize a portion of the campus with our partner, Bowa Construction, is a great achievement and has truly been a gratifying project,” says Tony Tysinger, senior project executive at Gilbane Building Company. “On top of that, developing a partnership with Illinois Tech and maximizing the involvement of diverse firms and workforce further accentuates the satisfaction of completing this successful project.”

For a virtual tour of Kacek Hall, please click here.

For more information on Illinois Tech, visit



  • Lobby Furniture:
  • Luminaire—Donation of Daniel Libeskind’s “Gemma” chairs
  • Plumbing Fixtures:
  • Kohler—Provided all plumbing fixtures “at cost,” offering significant project cost savings
  • Design Collaborators
  • Landscape Design
  • Chandra Goldsmith Gray, faculty member of Illinois Tech’s landscape architecture program
  • Civil Engineer
  • TERRA Engineering, LTD
  • Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and Fire Protection Engineers
  • dbHMS (Sachin Anand, founding principal, is an adjunct professor at Illinois Tech's College of Architecture)
  • Structural Engineer
  • Gene Mojekwu
  • Façade/Envelope Consultant
  • Building Technology Consultants (BTC)
  • Lighting Design
  • Gwen Grossman Lighting Design
  • Acoustic Design
  • Threshold Acoustics
  • Permit Expediting
  • Burnham Nationwide, Inc.
  • Furniture
  • RT London
  • Construction Collaborators
  • General Contractor: Gilbane Building Company

In partnership with:

  • BOWA Construction—General Contracting
  • Milburn Demolition—Demolition
  • IW&G Masonry—Masonry
  • IG Commercial—Glazing
  • Kedmont Roofing—Roofing and Waterproofing
  • Gurtz Electric—Electric
  • State Mechanical—HVAC
  • Hill Mechanical—Plumbing
  • Nova Fire Protection—Sprinklers
  • D5 Design and Metal Fabrication—Miscellaneous Steel
  • Anning-Johnson—Drywall
  • Bourbon Tile—Ceramic Tile and Exterior Pavers
  • Continental Painting—Painting
  • Artlow Systems—Polished Concrete
  • Mr. Davids Flooring—Vinyl Base and Rubber Flooring
  • Trice Construction—Concrete
  • Ameriscan Designs—Millwork
  • American Building Services—Doors, Frames, and Hardware
  • Abt Electronics—Appliances
  • Insolar Window Treatments Inc.—Roller Shades
  • Demco, Inc.—Trash Chutes
  • Cushing & Co.—Signage
  • C. J. Erickson—Site Utilities
  • Christy Webber Landscaping—Landscaping
  • Spray Insulations—Spray Fireproofing
  • USA Hoist—Material Hoist
  • Waste Management—Dumpsters
  • Construction Cleaning Company—Construction Cleaning