Designing and Implementing the Main Campus Master Plan

By Dirk Lohan
Architect, IIT Main Campus Master Plan
Member, IIT Board of Trustees

There was a growing sentiment in the early 1990s that IIT’s Main Campus was struggling amidst the surrounding public housing projects. Some people on the Board of Trustees were saying that we should shut down the campus and move to the suburbs.

Inspired by President Lew Collens, who has always been committed to Main Campus and Chicago, there was a group of us that said, “This is Chicago. It’s just a matter of improving the situation. We can do it.”

To address the issue, Lew and the board asked me to develop some ideas about how to make the campus not only safe, but also a more attractive place. Our recommendations included a reduction in the width of State Street, more landscaping, and traffic-calming measures such as signage and lighting. The plan also proposed building a new campus center and student housing along the El tracks to reduce the noise from the CTA trains. We believed that these expansions and improvements would make this campus a much more attractive environment.

Many of the buildings that Mies van der Rohe designed are well known, and certainly many of them needed to be preserved and protected.  Our recommendations for the landmarking of the important buildings have been implemented. Both the landscaping of Main Campus and the execution of the Master Plan have won major architectural awards, and S. R. Crown Hall has been named a National Historic Landmark.

Today, a decade later, there are many other positive developments in the area around the university, including improved housing and more people and businesses moving into the neighborhood.

It seems as if the decision to stay and develop Main Campus was the right one.