Jahn's latest brings new life to historic Chicago campus

August 01, 2003 |

Largely untouched since the days of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the historic campus of Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago got a much-needed boost with the opening of a student residence complex designed by IIT alumnus and Mies protégé Helmut Jahn.

A July 22 ceremony celebrated the completion of the $28 million State Street Village complex, which consists of three interconnected, five-story buildings wrapped in a curving, stainless-steel façade. The concrete structures are clad in corrugated stainless-steel panels and glass to reflect the surrounding urban landscape, in particular the elevated train tracks immediately to the east.

The complex is the first of two high-profile projects to be completed at IIT in 2003 as part of the school's master plan to reinvigorate the campus after nearly 40 years of stagnancy. The McCormick Tribune Campus Center, a $45 million facility designed by Rem Koolhaas, will open September 30. Constructed below the Chicago Transit Authority tracks, the Koolhaas building is topped with a $9 million, 531-ft.-long concrete tube wrapped in stainless steel to muffle the sound of trains passing overhead. It will be the Dutch architect's first completed project in the U.S.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Mies designed much of the university's main campus, and also served as dean of the school's College of Architecture. Despite this momentous legacy, many of today's IIT students look upon the campus as substandard.

IIT president Lew Collins hopes the two new showcase projects will change that perception, thus boosting recruitment and retention efforts. He told the audience at the opening ceremony that the two high-profile structures "reflect the university's recommitment to enhancing and strengthening the student life experience at IIT."

State Street Village is anything but ordinary when it comes to student housing. The three buildings, each with two wings, are connected in row-house fashion and covered with a curving steel façade, creating the appearance of being a single structure. Portions of the roof and façade are punched out to allow sunlight to stream into five landscaped courtyards within. Roof decks provide views of the campus and downtown Chicago.

The complex combines suite and apartment-style units to accommodate 360 students. Amenities include flexible furniture that can be reconfigured and high-speed data ports in every bedroom, living room, and lounge. The washers and dryers in the laundry room are computer-monitored, so that students can be notified via the Internet when their laundry is done.

To deaden the noise from the adjacent CTA tracks, Jahn moved all circulation corridors, study lounges, utility rooms, and lobby space to the east side of the complex. Concrete walls and specially designed glass cladding combine to further insulate the living quarters from the squeal of trains.

W.E. O'Neil, Chicago, built the 525-ft.-long structure, with Hill Mechanical Corp., also from Chicago, as M/E/P engineer. Germany's Werner Sobek Ingenieure GmbH did the structural work.

Construction was financed with bonds issued by the nonprofit IIT State Street Corp. The bonds will be repaid through revenue generated by the dorms.

State Street Village is Jahn's first student residence hall. He began his graduate studies in architecture at IIT in 1966 after completing undergrad work in his native Germany.

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