Back in 1952, Mies van der Rohe, known simply as Mies to the world of design, conceived, planned and drew blueprints for a building on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus. For reasons no one is quite clear on, the 10,000 square foot, glass walled structure was never built. Mies, hailed as one of the most outstanding architects of the 20th century and a leader of architectural modernism, died in 1969 without commenting on the unfulfilled project.

Now that building is scheduled for construction, thanks to the efforts of Sidney Eskenazi, who was a student at IU when the proposal was born. He and his wife Lois, benefactor of the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design at IU, presented the plans to IU president Michael A. McRobbie a few years back, according to the Eskenazi school dean, Peg Faimon.

The Eskenazis donated $20 million for the construction, which will include many elements of Mies original design. It’s the largest gift ever bestowed by the Eskenazis. The celebrated tribute to Mies has been designated as artistic center for the school, housing both classrooms and administrative offices.

The Architects

Thomas Phifer and Partners, based in New York, has been tapped to construct the monumental building, which it expects to unveil in June 2021. Faimon explained why they chose the firm for the project. “We have a strong and established relationship with the firm, as they are already designing a building directly across the street. We want to achieve a clear and sensitive connection between the two buildings, and this is best accomplished by the same firm working on both projects. The firm is also known for its beautiful attention to detail and its ability to work in a modernist language, making them the perfect partners for the project.”

More About Mies

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a man whose talents were world-renowned. He is probably most famous for his designs of early American skyscrapers including the Seagram Tower in New York City, IBM Plaza in Chicago, and Lake Shore Drive Towers on Lake Michigan. He’s also the icon who created the world’s famous Barcelona Pavilion as well as designed the eminent Barcelona chair.

Also a memorable wordsmith, Mies is credited with coining the expressions “less is more” and “God is in the details,” which are still quoted today. He also went on to become head of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

On a less positive note, Mies will always be associated with the launching the trend of the dull glass tower phenomenon with his early skyscrapers, though he was considered a pioneer in modern design, since he created these modern silhouettes in pre-war Germany.

Presidential Remarks

“The construction of this extraordinary work of architecture will support IU’s growth in one of IU’s newest schools and will serve as an enduring symbol of the legacy of generosity of Sidney and Lois Eskenazi, and an enduring symbol of the very founding of architectural modernism,” U president McRobbie said in a press release. Stay tuned to see the culmination of Mies’ vision for his alma mater.