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A low-slung building with glass and steel.
S.R. Crown Hall.
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14 significant Mies van der Rohe buildings in Chicago

From the Federal Center to the IIT campus

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S.R. Crown Hall.
| Shutterstock

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe heavily influenced Chicago’s architecture—we have more Mies building than any other city. In 1938, he arrived in Chicago after leaving the Bauhaus School in Germany. The architect took a position at the Armour Institute of Technology (which became the Illinois Institute of Technology) and preached his “less is more” philosophy.

By the 1960s, Mies had clearly broken from the traditional Chicago aesthetic and developed a modern style using glass and steel. His designs range from the low-slung IIT campus to a pair of residential towers on Lake Shore Drive and an the bold Federal Center complex.

If you’re just getting familiar with the architect, here’s a chronological primer on the most significant Mies structures in the Chicago area.

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1. Minerals and Metals Building, 1943

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Illinois Institute of Technology, 3350 South Federal Street
Chicago, IL 60609

Back in the early 1940s, Mies was still very new to the city. This particular design at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus (IIT) was the architect’s first commission for the school. It was also his first building in the country.

2. Wishnick Hall, 1946

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Illinois Institute of Technology, 3255 South Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60616

Unlike his first few buildings for IIT, Wishnick Hall hints at the full on steel beam and glass construction that would become what Mies was known for designing. In 2006, the building underwent a renovation effort that restored the lobby, auditorium, and hallways.

3. Perlstein Hall, 1947

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Illinois Institute of Technology, 10 West 33rd Street
Chicago, IL 60616

When it was constructed, this building was known as the Mechanical and Chemical Engineering Building. This design, centered around a vine-covered courtyard, was the architect’s largest building at IIT.

4. The Promontory Apartments, 1949

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5532 South Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637

In Hyde Park, Mies constructed his first high-rise building. The 22-story, 122-unit tower was also the first of several collaborations with developer Herbert Greenwald who would partner with Mies on several prolific residential projects.

5. 860-880 Lake Shore Apartments, 1951

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860 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

Perhaps one of Mies' most well-known projects, the twin apartment towers on Lake Shore Drive were the first residential project to use fully exposed steel I-beams. The use of this structural design on such a prominent sight signaled a pivotal moment in the Miesian Modern movement.

6. IIT Chapel, 1952

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Illinois Institute of Technology, 65 East 32nd Street
Chicago, IL 60616

This small building was intentionally designed to be unassuming. Of the building, Mies once said, “There is nothing spectacular about this chapel; it was not meant to be spectacular. It was meant to be simple, and in fact, it is simple. But in its simplicity it is not primitive, but noble, and in its smallness it is great, in fact, monumental.”

7. The Commons at IIT, 1954

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Illinois Institute of Technology, 3200 South Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616

This long, single story building was built to serve as the IIT campus' cafeteria and amenity space. It was restored in 2003, and still used as a dining hall for students.

8. Esplanade Apartment Buildings, 1956

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900 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

The lakefront project was a collaboration with Mies’ developer and partner Herbert Greenwald. These towers are near the architect’s first Lake Shore Drive project, which was built five years before. While this design looks similar to the other pair of towers, this grid features a continuous curtain wall of aluminum and glass.

9. Commonwealth Promenade Apartments, 1956

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330 West Diversey Parkway
Chicago, IL 60657

Here’s another famous Mies and Greenwald project. The original site plan called for four towers, but ultimately the team opted for two. The apartments here have incredible views of Lake Michigan, which you can take a look into here.

10. S.R. Crown Hall, 1956

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Illinois Institute of Technology, 3360 South State Street
Chicago, IL 60616

The Mies Society says that this building is “by all accounts, a masterpiece.” The short, steel and glass building was a groundbreaking achievement at the time, but also very pricey. Designed and built as the home of IIT's School of Architecture and Institute of Design, the building would also become immortalized in Stanley Tigerman's collage, “The Titanic.”

11. 2400 North Lakeview Condos, 1963

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2400 North Lakeview Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614

In 1958, Mies retired from IIT and worked on projects for other cities in the following years (notably, the 39-story Seagram Building in New York City). However, in 1963, the architect’s focus returned back to Chicago to design and construction this aluminum, concrete and glass tower near Lake Michigan.

12. Chicago Federal Center, 1964

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230 South Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60604

Chicago's Federal Center is perhaps Mies' most ambitious single project, taking over two decades from its early design stages to completion. The complex includes the 45-story John C. Kluczynski Federal Building, the 30-story Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse and a wide, single-story post office that sits in between the towers.

Most people will be familiar with the red hot sculpture from artist Alexander Calder, Flamingo, which resides on the center's plaza.

13. University of Chicago's SSA, 1965

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The University of Chicago, 969 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

The School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago was Mies' last project before his death in 1969. The building’s design is heavily influenced by IIT’s Crown Hall—it’s one-story, steel beam construction is quite similar.

14. One IBM Plaza (1970)

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330 North Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Finished after Mies’ death, this 52-story downtown tower is known to locals as the IBM building. Sitting along the Chicago River, it’s one of the first building’s pointed out on architectural river cruises. Not solely offices anymore, the monolithic, no-nonsense tower now houses the high-end Langham Hotel.

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1. Minerals and Metals Building, 1943

Illinois Institute of Technology, 3350 South Federal Street, Chicago, IL 60609

Back in the early 1940s, Mies was still very new to the city. This particular design at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus (IIT) was the architect’s first commission for the school. It was also his first building in the country.

Illinois Institute of Technology, 3350 South Federal Street
Chicago, IL 60609

2. Wishnick Hall, 1946

Illinois Institute of Technology, 3255 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60616

Unlike his first few buildings for IIT, Wishnick Hall hints at the full on steel beam and glass construction that would become what Mies was known for designing. In 2006, the building underwent a renovation effort that restored the lobby, auditorium, and hallways.

Illinois Institute of Technology, 3255 South Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60616

3. Perlstein Hall, 1947

Illinois Institute of Technology, 10 West 33rd Street, Chicago, IL 60616

When it was constructed, this building was known as the Mechanical and Chemical Engineering Building. This design, centered around a vine-covered courtyard, was the architect’s largest building at IIT.

Illinois Institute of Technology, 10 West 33rd Street
Chicago, IL 60616

4. The Promontory Apartments, 1949

5532 South Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60637

In Hyde Park, Mies constructed his first high-rise building. The 22-story, 122-unit tower was also the first of several collaborations with developer Herbert Greenwald who would partner with Mies on several prolific residential projects.

5532 South Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637

5. 860-880 Lake Shore Apartments, 1951

860 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60611

Perhaps one of Mies' most well-known projects, the twin apartment towers on Lake Shore Drive were the first residential project to use fully exposed steel I-beams. The use of this structural design on such a prominent sight signaled a pivotal moment in the Miesian Modern movement.

860 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

6. IIT Chapel, 1952

Illinois Institute of Technology, 65 East 32nd Street, Chicago, IL 60616

This small building was intentionally designed to be unassuming. Of the building, Mies once said, “There is nothing spectacular about this chapel; it was not meant to be spectacular. It was meant to be simple, and in fact, it is simple. But in its simplicity it is not primitive, but noble, and in its smallness it is great, in fact, monumental.”

Illinois Institute of Technology, 65 East 32nd Street
Chicago, IL 60616

7. The Commons at IIT, 1954

Illinois Institute of Technology, 3200 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616

This long, single story building was built to serve as the IIT campus' cafeteria and amenity space. It was restored in 2003, and still used as a dining hall for students.

Illinois Institute of Technology, 3200 South Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616

8. Esplanade Apartment Buildings, 1956

900 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60611

The lakefront project was a collaboration with Mies’ developer and partner Herbert Greenwald. These towers are near the architect’s first Lake Shore Drive project, which was built five years before. While this design looks similar to the other pair of towers, this grid features a continuous curtain wall of aluminum and glass.

900 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

9. Commonwealth Promenade Apartments, 1956

330 West Diversey Parkway, Chicago, IL 60657

Here’s another famous Mies and Greenwald project. The original site plan called for four towers, but ultimately the team opted for two. The apartments here have incredible views of Lake Michigan, which you can take a look into here.

330 West Diversey Parkway
Chicago, IL 60657

10. S.R. Crown Hall, 1956

Illinois Institute of Technology, 3360 South State Street, Chicago, IL 60616

The Mies Society says that this building is “by all accounts, a masterpiece.” The short, steel and glass building was a groundbreaking achievement at the time, but also very pricey. Designed and built as the home of IIT's School of Architecture and Institute of Design, the building would also become immortalized in Stanley Tigerman's collage, “The Titanic.”

Illinois Institute of Technology, 3360 South State Street
Chicago, IL 60616

11. 2400 North Lakeview Condos, 1963

2400 North Lakeview Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614

In 1958, Mies retired from IIT and worked on projects for other cities in the following years (notably, the 39-story Seagram Building in New York City). However, in 1963, the architect’s focus returned back to Chicago to design and construction this aluminum, concrete and glass tower near Lake Michigan.

2400 North Lakeview Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614

12. Chicago Federal Center, 1964

230 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60604

Chicago's Federal Center is perhaps Mies' most ambitious single project, taking over two decades from its early design stages to completion. The complex includes the 45-story John C. Kluczynski Federal Building, the 30-story Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse and a wide, single-story post office that sits in between the towers.

Most people will be familiar with the red hot sculpture from artist Alexander Calder, Flamingo, which resides on the center's plaza.

230 South Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60604

13. University of Chicago's SSA, 1965

The University of Chicago, 969 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

The School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago was Mies' last project before his death in 1969. The building’s design is heavily influenced by IIT’s Crown Hall—it’s one-story, steel beam construction is quite similar.

The University of Chicago, 969 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

14. One IBM Plaza (1970)

330 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611

Finished after Mies’ death, this 52-story downtown tower is known to locals as the IBM building. Sitting along the Chicago River, it’s one of the first building’s pointed out on architectural river cruises. Not solely offices anymore, the monolithic, no-nonsense tower now houses the high-end Langham Hotel.

330 North Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611