Mies van der Rohe's rediscovered early-50s design opens at Indiana University
A rediscovered 70-year-old Mies van der Rohe design that was reimagined for the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design at Indiana University has been inaugurated after the six-year-old institution announced the official opening of one of the most interesting pieces of academic architecture in recent memory.
Based on the architect’s abandoned 1952 plans for a fraternity on the Bloomington campus, the team at Thomas Phifer and Partners were able to rework the original design into an expanded home for the school’s faculty and students beginning in the spring semester.
The process began in 2013 after Sidney Eskenazi, a member of the fraternity that commissioned the design originally, informed IU’s then-president Michael A. McRobbie about drawings that had previously been thought by many to have been lost. A research endeavor thus was conducted with assistance from MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago that unearthed the additional documentation essential to realize the building, which was completed with the help of a $20 million gift from Eskenazi and his wife Lois.
Now, the 60-by-140-foot multi-use arts facility will be reborn as the living extension of Mies’ midwestern adaptation of the International Style as first seen in his early conceptual buildings for the Illinois Institute of Technology and further developed in the (now renamed) Edith Farnsworth House and Lafayette Park townhouse development in Detroit.
With only a narrow 10,000-square-foot footprint to work with, the team Thomas Pfifer and Partners were able to wonderfully recreate the architect’s original vision in the form of an elevated two-story rectangular glass and painted steel structure that comes well-appointed with select furnishings designed by van der Rohe and Florence Knoll. The reborn van der Rohe design will be joined eventually by the firm’s new 40,000-square-foot Ferguson International Center, which has already begun construction and is expected to be completed before the fall.
Eskenazi School Dean Peg Faimon expressed her hopes that the new building will someday become a “lasting monument to the power of collaborations and connections of all kinds,” adding that she sees it as exemplary of the “excellence” to which the burgeoning school is committed. A public open house and reception will be held on April 8th to celebrate the long-awaited debut, with an invite-only panel featuring SOM structural engineer Ron Johnson and Mies biographer Edward Windhorst. IU Associate Vice President, Capital Planning & Facilities Adam Thies will serve as moderator.