Thursday, May 07, 2009

Mies van der Rohe's square hut: the ugly shall pass away

One Mies building on IIT campus can go; squat brick building isn't his best work, and preservationists need to fight other battles - Chicago Tribune

As an IIT graduate I recall many hours of classes in buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe. Without meaning to detract from the architectural significance of Mies' designs -which often struck me as somewhat cold, stark, severe, and institutional- it's funny to me that the faceless "Test Cell" hut, which barely registers in my memory, would arouse such passion among some preservationists.

I mean, look at the thing! It's an ugly brick box, perhaps suitable for storing landscaping equipment (if there's another, larger door). I've seen storage lockers that are more attractive and certainly more useful.

Whether it was designed by Mies van der Rohe or Leonardo da Vinci, it's still an ugly brick box. Mies' homely storage shed once may have served a useful purpose, but now stands in the way of a project which many hope will improve the campus and neighborhood. I realize that as a product of Herr van der Rohe, some people may view the Test Cell as a holy relic, but I don't agree.

After it's razed perhaps the liberated bricks could be auctioned off to Mies van der Rohe architecture aficionados, or recycled into another plain, institutional box for use by people who like their buildings minimalist and severe.

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