Learning Objectives

After reading this article, you should be able to:

1. Describe the challenges of restoring a Modernist building.

2. Discuss the material substitutions made to Mies's design concept in order to preserve the design aesthetic.

3. Explain the problems with the original glass used in the building.

For this story and more continuing education, as well as links to sources, white papers, and products, go to www.archrecord.com.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe circa 1956 standing in S.R. Crown Hall, the architecture school he designed at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe circa 1956 standing in S.R. Crown Hall, the architecture school he designed at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The weight of "almost nothing"

Unlike earlier Crown Hall renovations in which the travertine and steel of the South Porch were replaced and women's bathrooms were added in the basement, this phase was more complex and intricate. Crown Hall contains the architectural DNA of Mies's entire aesthetic. The beauty exists paradoxically in the metaphorical nothingness of it. The building is a big box, a "one-room school house," as Dean Donna Robertson, AIA, has called it. The 120-foot-by-220-foot floor plate seems to hover 6 feet above grade. Meanwhile, the roof hangs 18 feet above the floor from an exoskeleton made of four, 6-foot-deep steel girders. From the inside, the resulting clear-span, "universal space" experience is that of being in a structure with no visible means of support. Furthermore, the curtain wall had enormous expanses of glass held in place by the slimmest of stops.

Ronald Krueck, FAIA, and Sexton, both alumni of IIT, were

Steel corrosion was extensive. The repair cycle included sandblasting, inspection, more sandblasting, and repair. Steel conducted moisture along the base causing condensation in the winter. When the paint is dam-

aged by moisture and exposes the steel to the elements, the steel rusts and forms a red dust (right and below). Corrosion pits form, which produce just enough pressure in the stop to crack the glass (below and far right).

well aware that the starkness of Mies's work does not equate to simplicity, nor was his bias in favor of off-the-shelf components suggest a generic architectural vocabulary. They were ready to preserve and protect every detail, adjacency, span, and material. Still, it takes a lot of research and study to restore "almost nothing." The architects were fortunate to have the services of preservation consultant Gunny Harboe, AIA, of Austin AECOM (formerly McClier).

The scope of work was extensive: The sandblast removal of all lead-based paint from interior and exterior steel and repairs to the members that had rusted. The steel hadn't been repainted in 25 years, so the dense "Miesian black" from photographs had faded to a dull gray. The glass panels did not conform to any code, so they had to be replaced, and the steel stops redesigned. The process also involved refurbishment and reactivation of the blinds, disassembling and retrofitting them with electromagnetic release hardware, and refurbishing the original Ellison stainless-steel doors on the north and south facades. Finally, the $3.6 million renovation included upgrading the bathrooms to meet current

ADA accessibility standards.

Obviously, the restoration didn't actually take place in 15 weeks, as the closing ceremony pronouncements suggested. Assessment of the existing conditions, study of Mies's details, and the final design solution evolved over a two-year period. The actual demolition and construction


lasted 15 weeks, but when the symbolic shattering took place, every beam, frame, and pane of glass was already fabricated and waiting for assembly nearby. The planning process was methodical, and the execution surgically precise. Much of the credit for this goes to Clune Construction Company, whose scheduling and coordination of the demolition, repair, and reconstruction sequences included a contingency plan for dealing with and solving unforeseen problems while staying on schedule.

YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support

New frames and tops are in place, awaiting installation of the glass (above). The difference between the original detail (top right) and the new one (right) is very subtle.

1 1/2"


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