a rediscovered mies van der rohe design is being built in indiana

Jun 21, 2021

he may have been gone for more than half a century, but mies van der rohe is still adding to his portfolio of modernist masterpieces. a rediscovered design by the german-born american architect is currently under construction at indiana university (IU), where it will serve as a shared facility for the school of art, architecture and design. in 2013, sidney eskenazi, a former IU student, informed the school of the existence of little-known plans by mies for a new building on the campus. designed in 1952, the structure was originally commissioned for the fraternity alpha theta chapter of pi lambda phi, who later abandoned the project.

IU subsequently found documentation of the project in the archives of the art institute of chicago and new york’s museum of modern art, and, in 2019, the university announced plans to realize the 10,000 square foot (929 sqm), two-story building thanks to a donation from sidney eskenazi and his wife lois. the project, which broke ground on the school’s bloomington campus in june 2020, has been adapted for contemporary use by thomas phifer and partners — the new york-based firm that is also the architect for IU’s new ferguson international center. construction on the ‘mies building’ is already well underway, with the project scheduled to open in fall 2021.

the design is a 60 foot wide (18 m), 140 foot long (43 m) rectangular structure of thin white-painted steel and expansive glass. floor-to-ceiling windows wrap around the entire second story, which features a central exterior square atrium, giving the impression of transparency throughout the building. much of the lower level is open to the air, with the second or main story elegantly elevated above the ground plane. serving as a home for the eskenazi school of art, architecture and design, the facility will contain lecture, workshop, student collaboration, administrative, and office programming.

‘this new building, situated in the center of our beautiful bloomington campus, will serve to inspire and elevate IU’s students of art, architecture, and design, as well as our excellent faculty, as it advances the growth and development of one of IU’s newest schools,’ shares indiana university president michael a. mcrobbie. ‘all of us at IU are immensely grateful for the vision, support, and generosity of sidney and lois eskenazi, who have literally brought this astonishing work of architecture out of obscurity and into the light and who continue to have a transformational impact on our world-class community of scholars. to acquire a building for the campus designed by mies van der rohe is the equivalent of IU’s eskenazi museum of art acquiring a new picasso or pollock.’

timelapse of the building under construction

architecturally, the building has a strong relationship to both the farnsworth house and the massing and form of many of mies’ early concepts for buildings at the illinois institute of technology. ‘as someone who worked with my grandfather mies van der rohe since 1957, I thought I knew all the projects he ever worked on. but I never heard about this project until indiana university contacted me about its wish to build this 70-year-old design,’ says dirk lohan, mies’ grandson who was present at the building’s dedication. ‘after contemplating the request, I and the three other grandchildren concluded this would indeed be a wonderful assertion of mies’ significance as an architect. I am convinced that mies van der rohe, who died over 50 years ago, would have been pleased to see his iconic edifice ultimately being born.’

‘the mies building will provide the eskenazi school of art, architecture and design with a shared facility, enabling faculty and students of all our programs to come together and collaborate,’ adds peg faimon, founding dean of the eskenazi school. ‘but just as important, the building shows who we are, representing the excellence to which we are committed. there can be no greater inspiration for us than to learn and work in a masterpiece by this titan of 20th century architecture. let us hope that it will be a lasting monument to the power of collaborations and connections of all kinds: artistic, creative, intellectual and, above all, human.’

this original mies van der rohe drawing from 1952 shows the design concept that inspired the new construction

recently, david chipperfield architects completed the refurbishment of mies van der rohe’s neue nationalgalerie in berlin. after five years of extensive work, which included upgrading the museum to current technical standards and repairing its concrete shell, the icon of 20th century architecture is now been restored to its former glory. meanwhile, ZUMO, a research-based practice dedicated to digital architectural visualization, brought unbuilt mies van der rohe-designed skyscrapers to life as part of a digital tribute. see all news and projects relating to the work of mies van der rohe on designboom here.

project info:

name: eskenazi school of art, architecture + design, indiana university location: bloomington, indiana project cost: $10 million USD groundbreaking: june 2020 expected completion: fall 2021 dimensions: footprint: 140 x 60 ft (43 x 18 m) / height: 21 ft (6.4 m) (2 stories) design architect: ludwig mies van der rohe architect: thomas phifer and partners project team: thomas phifer, principal; stephen dayton, project director; katie bennett, director; matthew zuckerman, jessica luscher general contractor: CDI, inc., terre haute, IN

consultants — structural engineer: skidmore, owings and merrill, chicago mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection: cosentini associates, chicago lighting: cosentini associates, new york AV and IT: cosentini associates, chicago

material fabricators — structural steel: MAK steel windows: waltek, ltd. limestone: indiana limestone fabricators, SSRG terrazzo: santarossa mosaic and tile co.