Less Is More

But Maybe Not Here...

Squarish things Chicago is famous for:

Its unrelenting city grid, its downtown ‘El’, the elevated railway line, its modernist skyscrapers.

Roundish things Chicago is famous for:

The ‘corncob’ building, and…deep dish pizza? Maybe?

It's just not a place we associate with circles and flowing curves.

One man in particular is responsible for many of the notable buildings in Chicago: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the German-born architect who emigrated to the US in 1938, where he headed the architecture department at what became the Illinois Institute of Chicago.

In the twenty years till he retired from IIT, Mies completed an overall master plan and five buildings on campus, including the landmark Crown Hall.

In contrast to the cool, Teutonic purity of these buildings is the funky swagger of the McCormick Tribune Campus Centre designed nearly half a century after Crown Hall by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

This building zigs and zags, and wraps the elevated metro line in a shimmering metallic skin.

So far, so not Mies.

But then…there he is!

Approaching the entry to the building visitors are greeted by the penetrating stare of Mies’ giant head.

Get closer and the inventor of ‘less is more’ dissolves into more: the master of the grid has been rendered in tens upon hundreds of circles.

And then even closer, more becomes more, as each circle breaks down into a kooky infographic signalling just what people can get up to in this building and the wider campus.

‘God is in the details’, Mies famously said, and here it is in the hundreds of tiny details that the great man is indeed to be found.


The McCormick Tribune Campus Centre is at 33rd and State Streets, Chicago. The fab graphic design is by 2 x 4.

Thanks to RAB for allowing me to use his images from IIT. Top bloke.