Chicago: A visit to a Koolhaas building
For the past week or so, I've been in Chicago interviewing undertakers, embalmers and cemetery historians for a radio documentary. It's been fun work. But it's also exhausting at times. One can only visit so many graveyards before needing a break.
That's why an unplanned visit to the Rem Koolhaas-designed student center at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) was such fun. I'd heard Koolhaas lecture, I own a copy of S, M, L, XL (who doesn't?), but I'd never actually been inside one of his buildings. And that's the test for whether a building works. (Koolhaas' firm is called Office for Metropolitan Architecture.)
I'm happy to report that the McCormick Tribune Campus Center was a joy.
Your correspondent was able to relax for a few minutes and watch students play ping pong. Every student center should have such old school interactive games. Unlike video games, you can see people move ... they really become part of the space that make the entire building feel alive.
Koolhaas incorporated the necessary computers, but they're tucked away under the main floor, just a few steps down from the ping pong tables. This is an acknowledgement of their importance, but they doesn't overwhelm (unlike the mass of computer stations at the Minneapolis Central Library where the books sometimes seem like an afterthought). Very nice.
The bookstore –– as you might expect -- had a great selection of architecture books. The IIT campus also has buildings designed by the legendary Mies van der Rohe.