IIT Innovation Center (Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship)

Architect: John Ronan Architects

Owner: Illinois Institute of Technology

Location: Chicago

Award of Merit

The horizontal, open and light-filled building is designed to encourage creative encounters between students and faculty across disciplines. Located in the heart of IIT’s historic Mies campus, the building draws students and faculty in from all directions. Conceived as a hybrid of campus space and building, the design is organized around two open-air courtyards through which visitors enter the building, and which serve as collision nodes for chance meetings and information exchange across departments.

"Dial it down to zero and you can still hear the building." ~ Jury comment

These two-story glazed courtyards bring natural light deep into the floor plate, creating a spacious, airy and light filled interior and a continuous connection with nature. The design of the Innovation Center is innovative in its own right, and forward-thinking in its approach to sustainability. The second floor of the building, which cantilevers over the ground floor to provide sun shading, is enclosed in a dynamic façade of ETFE foil cushions which can vary the amount of solar energy entering the building through sophisticated pneumatics. The ETFE foil is one percent the weight of glass and gives the building a light, cloud-like appearance.

Additional information

General Contractor: Power Construction Company

Engineer - Structural: Werner Sobek Stuttgart

Engineer - MEPFP: dbHMS

Engineer - Civil: Terra Engineering

Landscape: Terry Guen Design Associates

Lighting: Charter Sills

Security: Jensen Hughes

Programming: Shepley Bulfinch

ETFE Subcontractor: Vector Foiltec


Michael A. Nieminen, FAIA, (2019 Chair), Kliment Halsband Architects, New York, NY

Meryati Johari Blackwell, AIA, Marlon Blackwell Architects, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Jason Forney AIA, Bruner/Cott Architects, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Kim Tanzer, FAIA, Gainesville, Florida

JoAnn Hindmarsh Wilcox, AIA, Mahlum Architects, Seattle, WA

Image credits

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Steve Hall

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Steve Hall

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Steve Hall

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Steve Hall

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Steve Hall