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Chicago Architect Wins Auction to Shatter Glass at Mies's Crown Hall

The historic renovation of mid-twentieth century Modernist icons continues to provide new controversies. The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) raised eyebrows when it sponsored an auction on eBay to shatter the first pane of glass at the school’s Mies van der Rohe-designed Crown Hall, home of its architecture school. Dirk Lohan, a Chicago architect who attended IIT, is a member of its Board of Trustees, and – not without irony – is Mies van der Rohe’s grandson, will break the glass after winning the auction with his high bid of $2,705.

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Dubbed the “Smash Bash,” the May 17, 2005 event will start a three-month $3.6 million exterior renovation of the structure and its enclosing glass membrane by Chicago-based Kreuk and Sexton. Dr. Matthew Hardy, who directs the London-based International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture & Urbanism (INTBAU), characterized the event on his organization’s website as “a disgusting spectacle of violence towards a serious work of 20th-century architecture.”

"It’s not Mies’s glass!” exclaims IIT Architecture Dean Donna Robertson, referring to the fact that most of the glass in the building was replaced in the 1970s. “We were going to break it anyway,” she continues. Using an eBay auction was the school’s creative response to the paucity of funds available to renovate historic modernist structures. The building will be surrounded by a shrouded scaffold for the duration of the renovation. Corporate branding on the plastic covering is still under consideration.

 

Edward Keegan

 

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