Rigour, purity, order and truth. Standardisation, module, steel and glass. These are words that have been excessively associated to the work of Mies and stand out on his buildings. But the collection of objects that make up the campus was missing something. Its owners realised that all this architectural excellence wasn't noticed by most of the students who visited the area. Perhaps the problem wasn't in the objects that Mies had designed, but in the space left between them, the elevated train tracks divide the setting in two and a certain no-man's-land extends to both sides and disconnects the academic buildings from student residences.
This is where Koolhaas came in. The OMA project for the Campus Center of the IIT is located right below the tracks, incorporating an existing and practically isolated building, the Commons Hall, and its ground plan responds to the paths students draw daily as they cross the campus. The overabundance of spaces, colours, materials, finishes, images and graphic resources might overwhelm some, but it is quite possibly the best way to confront Mies.
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