One of the great perks of visiting Crown Hall, widely considered to be Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s crowning achievement in modernist architecture, is that it continues to be used as a workspace for the aspiring architects of tomorrow—its interior is anything but a sacrosanct minimalist affair, but a charming mess of stools and tables covered with models, drawings, building plans, overall much more ‘analogue’ than one would expect. Surely this would have pleased Mies—and his likeness watches on, in the shape of a modest bust guarding one of Crown Hall’s two entrances. The bust is the work of Swiss-born sculptor Hugo Weber, who, before moving to the US in the 1940s (Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was instrumental in bringing him to Chicago to teach at the new incarnation of the Bauhaus at IIT), worked with the likes of Alberto Giacometti and Aristide Maillol. (This is the kind of meshwork of art-historical connections that Goshka is often interested in basing her work on, however obliquely.) The bust was presented to the Department of Architecture at IIT by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Art in 1961.
After walking through the open studio workspaces in Crown Hall, we met with Kim Soss, Librarian and Head of the Graham Resource Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture. Kim’s specialization in architectural research and long-standing involvement in twentieth century design history were the perfect introduction to the school’s rich history, the legacy of Mies van der Rohe, and IIT’s merger with László Moholy-Nagy’s Bauhaus inspired Institute of Design in 1949. Kim’s vintage style and scarfs caught Goshka’s eye—hanging on her office wall are just a few choice selections from her collection.
This is the Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel of St. Savior on the IIT campus—Mies van der Rohe’s only foray into the world of ecclesiastical building, as the Mies Society’s website puts it (apparently he cherished a life-long dream of building a cathedral someday). It is also referred to, on campus, as the “God Box”—though we were not able to corroborate this. Peering inside, we found little traces of frequent use, and very few markers of the structure’s religious status indeed. It certainly would make for a great performance space.