If These Walls Could Talk

“The two-story glazed courtyards bring natural light deep into the floor plate, creating a spacious, airy, and light-filled interior and a continuous connection with nature.”

“Large, open, horizontal floor plates allow visual connection to multiple spaces at one time, while openings in the floor plate allow visual access from floor to floor to foster the feeling of a single collaborative community of users.”

“Assigned project spaces and meeting spaces that require sound isolation are enclosed with demountable partitions that can be reconfigured over time, preserving the building’s future flexibility.”

“The second floor of the building, which cantilevers over the ground floor to provide sun shading, is enclosed in a dynamic façade of ETFE foil cushions that can vary the amount of solar energy entering the building through sophisticated pneumatics. The ETFE foil is 1 percent the weight of glass and gives the building a light, cloud-like appearance.”

“Water-filled tubing embedded in a concrete-filled metal deck converts the building’s floor structure into a radiant heating and cooling system.”

“Rain-chains direct water from the roof to stormwater detention below the courtyards.”

“Room colors correspond to Post-it® Note colors, which are instrumental in the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program and Institute of Design teaching methods.”

“Wood from ash trees that were removed from the site for construction are used to construct wood tabletops in the shop and community kitchen. The ash trees removed from the site were dead as they were stricken with the emerald ash borer beetle.”

“Full-height exterior glass panels at the ground-level perimeter and in both courtyards allow views through the entire width and length of the building.”

“The 24-foot structural grid follows Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s master plan for the Illinois Tech campus.”

“Dry erase paint coating on interior walls transforms them into teaching surfaces.”

“Electrical outlets in the face of the Tribune Stair spell out ‘IIT.’”


With its bold façade of glossy, white ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) panels, the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship is impossible to miss against the backdrop of blonde brick, steel, and glass of Illinois Tech’s Mies Campus.


esigned by John Ronan, Illinois Tech John and Jeanne Rowe Endowed Chair in the College of Architecture and founding principal of John Ronan Architects, the Kaplan Institute is a “hybrid of campus space and building,” says Ronan, whose firm has won architectural awards for Chicago’s Poetry Foundation and Gary Comer Youth Center, and was ranked #4 among the Top 50 in Design by Architect Magazine in 2017.

The two-story, 70,000-square-foot Kaplan Institute is the latest in a series of thoughtful concepts for Ronan, who describes the two courtyards around which the design is organized as the building’s “‘eyes’ and ‘lungs,’ bringing in natural light and ventilation to create a comfortable and healthy environment for collaboration.”

Ronan highlights other noteworthy details—some visible to visitors, some hidden—that make the Kaplan Institute one of a kind.