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guggenheim: movements

Illinois Institute of Technology

American Modernism

s Frank Lloyd Wright came to the end of his career, American architecture was moving towards a new architectural era. Although the Guggenheim Museum is considered to be Frank Lloyd Wright’s last masterpiece, it did not represent the direction of modern architecture in the late 1950’s. Europeans who had been displaced by the war came to America where a building boom was beginning. They brought the International Style with them, which became the dominant architecture of a progressive America that wanted to create for itself a strong national image in the aftermath of World War II.

One new émigré who was both successful and influential in his career was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. A German architect who had been director of the Bauhaus following Walter Gropius and Hannes Meyer, Mies van der Rohe was invited in 1937 to be the Dean of the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. In the subsequent twenty years, he became the most famous modern architect in America. His most influential project was the Seagram Building in New York City—the first skyscraper to have an all-glass facade became the model for all subsequent buildings of this type. Mies strove to create a “universal space.” Whether he was building a luxury apartment building in Chicago or the boiler plant at the Armour Institute, he uses the same steel grid and glass skin, believing that the users determine function, not the architect. This is in marked contrast to the Guggenheim Museum, which seems to be a direct response to program.

Illinois Institute of Technology Mies’ most comprehensive project was a new campus for the Armour Institute, renamed the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1938. The campus master plan was finished in 1939 and the buildings were slowly constructed over the next seventeen years. It was a symmetrical plan, with buildings arranged along a single axis. All were four stories high and conceived of as steel structures clad in transparent glass walls.

Pictured: Illinois Institute of Technology, 1956, Chicago, Illinois

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