Carman Hall on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology.

photo by: Tom Harris

Preservation Magazine, Spring 2023

Modernist Magic: A Mies-Designed Residence Hall Comes Back to Life

With the restoration of Carman Hall in August of 2022, Illinois Institute of Technology capped a three-year, $70 million effort to revive a trio of deteriorated, Mies van der Rohe–designed residential buildings. “There’s such a huge variety,” says architect Dirk Denison of the structures on the campus Mies planned in 1941. “And these three buildings are [among] the only tall buildings.” Two of them, Cunningham Hall and George J. Kacek Hall, shuttered more than a decade ago. Carman Hall remained open, but a third of its apartments were vacant, says Bruce Watts, the school’s vice president for administration.

The university needed more living space, so it tapped Denison and Gilbane Building Company to lead the rehabilitation of all three buildings, which began in 2019. Denison and his team replaced Carman Hall’s old, buff-colored brick with matching brick produced by the original manufacturer and stayed true to the original window patterns.

On the interior, Denison opened up the formerly dark and narrow corridors, a decision he says reflects Mies’ desire for spatial flexibility. He also added new study lounges and modernized apartment units with kitchen space. Students returned to Carman Hall last fall, and so far, Watts says, feedback has been “very positive.”

Tim O'Donnell is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He spends most of his time reading about modern European history and hoping the Baltimore Orioles will turn their fortunes around. A Maryland native, he now lives in Brooklyn.

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