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American Skyscrapers. Alumni Memorial Hall Essay

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Updated: Feb 14th, 2022

Alumni Memorial Hall is a part of the Illinois Institute of Technology, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It was built in 1946 and renamed in 1947 to immortalize the students of the Institute who lost their lives in World War II. The building is aligned on a grid it shared with the rest of the campus. Mies designed the campus to be modular and proportional, with different sections corresponding to the Golden Section. The construction was minimalistic and resembled a factory, with its exposed steel beams, brick, and concrete.

The inside walls and floors were built to be easily interchangeable, continuing with the modular design. Non-loadbearing components can be removed or replaced, according to the desired function. The Alumni Memorial Hall was conceived as an outward rejection of the idea that form follows function. The entirety of it can be repurposed to serve a wholly different function both inside and outside the education sphere. The construction was inspired by a German shoe factory, which was designed to exemplify modern sensibilities. Some describe the Alumni Memorial Hall as a forerunner to brutalist architecture, and it certainly looks the part.

Perhaps the most notable element of the construction is Mies’s negative corner. Every corner of that building is an inward-shaped steel I-beam, with walls protruding to either side of it. In the center of the negative corner, there is a smaller positive corner, an outward protrusion of the beam, signifying a sturdy load-bearing core. That mirrors the exposed steel beams generously featured throughout the outside of the Hall, hinting at a load-bearing skeleton. The actual load-bearing elements are encased in concrete and are not visible anywhere in the building, but the beams are placed to signify their presence. The negative-positive corner follows the same idea, signifying an invisible load-bearing corner beam by a visible non-load-bearing one. That serves to give the building a durable and functional presentation characteristic of modernism and brutalism.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "American Skyscrapers. Alumni Memorial Hall." February 14, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/american-skyscrapers-alumni-memorial-hall/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'American Skyscrapers. Alumni Memorial Hall'. 14 February.

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