Urgent! Will Chicago tear down a Mies van der Rohe building?

    (I write more on this and add many photos here. Scroll down to see several posts.)

    Save the Mies!

    A small building on a southwest corner of the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) at 35th and Federal; from 1950 - 52.

    The door is an addition… but could be undone.

    On the drawings for it, now in the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe archive at the Museum of Modern Art in New York it's called the Test Cell.

    Some people call it the "Gunnery." Longstanding rumors at IIT have it that this building leads to an underground shooting range and/or a chamber in which to detonate and test explosives. Hence the odd name, the Test Cell, for this odd building.

    IIT did receive much government funding during and after the second World War. Was it related to that? What they were testing here? I'd like to be allowed to go down this "rabbit hole," like Alice.

    The public transit organization Metra wants to build a train station on this spot.

    They would down tear this work by Mies.

    The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) had been against its demolition- at least behind the scenes- stating that this work "contributes" to the overall significance of the IIT campus. Since IIT's entire academic campus was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, it seems crazy to allow demolition of a part of it designed by Mies.

    But the IHPA seems to have reversed its position; it seems the state agency charged with Historic Preservation will not move to stop the demolition of this work by Mies.

    The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has reportedly determined that the building has no real merit.

    I'm waiting to hear the latest from them.

    The Illinois Institute of Technology, wants a Metra stop there very badly. IIT is considered a partner in the project. U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) is also pushing for it. The station would serve his constituents and the nearby Chicago White Sox stadium.

    Metra's studies and construction drawings are finished. Stimulus funds have been approved.

    A contractor has not been chosen, but will be in the next couple of weeks. A conference will be held in two days, April 8 (at IIT !), to solicit minority subcontractors for this project financed with public dollars.

    Last month Metra was promised more than $140 million from President Barack Obama's stimulus package. That's what's causing this now. Metra will spend more than $10 million on it.

    When Metra first designed the new station, the agency didn't know that this building on the site was by Mies van der Rohe. But it is on the campus of IIT, and Mies used brick and well, you've just got to check these things.

    When you build in Rome, you find antiquities. When you build in Chicago, you find important Modernism.

    I'm told, by one who has studied this issue in depth, that this building is valuable for the following reasons:
    It shows asymmetry
    The low, engaged garden walls (reminiscent of the Wolf House in Guben/Gubin at the German/Polish border; the only example of Mies designing these once he got to the US)

    An indication of how Mies wanted the campus to be inclusive of its environment and not walled-off (notice how the structure interfaces with the Metra track)

    Unique details, such as the small steel coping (the top layer) and the
    running bond brickwork- each row is made entirely with the long side of the brick facing out. It's the only example of this I know in Mies's work

    Mixed materials – interior walls are concrete and even exposed CMU (concrete masonry units)

    This completes Mies’s design for the power plant area of campus; it "holds the corner"
    Not long ago Chicago tore down the Arts Club with the interior that Mies designed-- a great and irreplaceable loss. I grew up watching Louis Sullivans come down.

    I know some "Miesians" in Chicago are not worried by the loss of this small, rather overlooked project. Others are.

    I say, rework the Metra project to save the building designed by Mies van der Rohe. That is possible.

    Save everything in Chicago designed by Mies. He is that important. We owe it to future generations.

    Just as the details of a building of his tell about the whole, so the details of his design career, such as this little outpost, will tell you, or a future visitor, about his greater works.

    More information when I get it. Stay tuned. I expect to have more on this next week.

    Photos and scans added thanks to - a friend.

    More on saving the Mies van der Rohe Test Cell here.
    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/04/urgent-will-chicago-tear-down-mies-van.html
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