Given the exemplary status of the IIT campus for 20th Century architecture, the initiative to extend it at the beginning of the 21st Century incites the expectation of another forward-looking architectural statement.
We were interested in the congruency between the intentions of the masterplan and the potential of the Campus Center, where the Center could, through its multiple programme, initiate and corroborate the wider objectives the institute wishes to address. By identifying the reciprocally twinned moments of the programme – the residential functions on one hand and the academic institutions on the other- we were able construct a vibrant interface between the two, as well as towards the public realm of State Street.
The masterplan relates to the classical aspects of the campus arrangement. The subtle symmetries of the plan continue to be broken by slight slippages, resulting in arrangements reminiscent of neo-plasticise composition. The spaces in-between often allow for multiple readings, contradicting the axial and hierarchical set up, while the lived space of the campus seem much more open and ambiguous than the original formalism suggests. The building continues the play of slipping and sliding, rather than locking into the axis of 33rd Street.
The character of the Campus Center and its location are crucially linked. By placing a ‘nexus’ opposite the lawn behind Crown Hall, the Center frames a space with Crown and Perlstein Halls across State Street. The new Center becomes a ‘walk-in website’, literally deriving its physiognomy from the mediating and orientational characteristics it must embody. The Center becomes a catalyst for the emerging cross-disciplinary activity between departments, where collaboration between students of diverse backgrounds is facilitated by a heightened awareness of who is doing what to forge a stronger collective institutional identity.