ReVITALization: Academic Buildings for the Future

By Marcia Faye
 Academic Buildings for the Future Image 1
The construction pit is being readied for the Engineering 1 building in 1966. To the west is Main Building with IIT Tower ahead to the south. Source: IIT Archives (Chicago)

Two buildings at the north end of IIT Main Campus bounded by 31st Street—Life Sciences and Engineering 1—have served students and faculty for nearly a half-century. Through the Fueling Innovation: The Campaign for IITpriority to “Revitalize Core Campus Buildings,” LS and E1 are being prepped to strengthen science and engineering education for many more decades.

“The mantra is ‘students first,’” says Russell Betts, professor and dean of IIT College of Science, about the renovation of the Life Sciences building on Main Campus. “Everything we’re going to do—beautifying the building, bringing the classrooms and labs into the twenty-first century, and creating new collaborative space—will improve the educational experience of our science majors.”

 Academic Buildings for the Future Image 2
Students and visitors alike will enjoy the spacious lobby of the John T. Rettaliata Engineering Center.

The renovation of the Life Sciences and Engineering 1 buildings comprises one of the six priorities of Fueling Innovation: The Campaign for IIT, the university’s six-year fundraising effort. Once the renovations are completed, Life Sciences will be renamed as the Robert A. Pritzker Research Center and E1 as the John T. Rettaliata Engineering Center in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

COL (IL) J. N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired) made a $3 million gift through the Tawani Foundation for the Robert A. Pritzker Research Center. Colonel Pritzker’s gift was made in honor of his father, Robert A. Pritzker. The gift includes a $2.5 million match challenge, which will inspire other donors to give to the project. To date, IIT has raised $925,000 from other donors toward the match challenge. The initial renovation phase, which began design this spring, focuses on upgrading building systems (mechanical, HVAC, and security, among others), exterior painting, and renovations of the first floor.

 Academic Buildings for the Future Image 3
One option for a collaboration space in the Robert A. Pritzker Research Center. Rendering: LCM Architects

LCM Architects is planning a west lobby atrium entrance for the Robert A. Pritzker Research Center that will help to showcase science as well as provide an inviting space for students to gather and collaborate. Additional priorities of the first phase of renovation include creating more-expansive classroom environments and a customized Advanced Physics and Instrumentation Laboratory. Improving this building will serve to strengthen science at IIT with the goal of growing science enrollments by 50 percent over the next five years.

In honor of her late husband John T. Rettaliata, IIT’s president from 1952–1973, Caryl Pucci Rettaliata has donated $10 million toward the John T. Rettaliata Engineering Center and $2 million to endow the John T. Rettaliata Distinguished Professorship of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, held by Hassan Nagib (MAE ’68, M.S. ’69, Ph.D. ’72).

“Architect Dirk Lohan is developing a conceptual master plan for the building,” says Bruce Watts, IIT vice president for facilities and public safety. “Dirk has a deep understanding of IIT’s mission and its campus. His lead designer, David Fleener, studied at IIT and worked with Myron Goldsmith, who was the building’s original designer. Goldsmith was a student and employee of [Ludwig] Mies van der Rohe.”

A new lobby space is being planned for the south entrance to the building along with an improved north entrance, whose focal point will be an undergraduate teaching and research center.

 Academic Buildings for the Future Image 4
The Robert A. Pritzker Research Center will provide students with ample room in which to gather or relax. Rendering: LCM Architects

“The center will help to further encourage the interdisciplinary collaborations that are essential in providing students with the distinctive and relevant education that is part of the IIT mission,” says Natacha DePaola, Carol and Ed Kaplan Armour College Dean of Engineering Chair.

“Our building will be flexible enough to accommodate our students well into the future and provide them with a stimulating environment for nurturing their growth as scientists and leaders.”

For more information about these projects, funding, and naming opportunities, please contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 312.567.5000.

More Online

Fueling Innovation: The Campaign for IIT: fuelinginnovation.iit.edu