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Memorial Chapel at IIT

The Mies Society honors Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's only ecclesiastic work

On October 1, 2014 the Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) hosted a rededication ceremony for the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed chapel in partnership with the Mies van der Rohe Society.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Memorial Chapel at IIT
Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Photograph by Hedrich Blessing. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum. 

Although he expressed aspirations to build a cathedral late in life, the Carr Memorial Chapel remains Mies van der Rohe's only ecclesiastic project. Colloquially referred to as “God’s Box,” the building is in keeping with Mies van der Rohe's famous aesthetic quips—“less is more” and “god is in the details.” The latter is quite literally on display at Carr Memorial Chapel, with the façade’s steel mullions reflecting the shape and proportions of the slender cross above the alter.

The chapel was commissioned in the years following WWII when it was envisioned as one of the “great educational projects of the atomic age.” While non-denominational, the aforementioned theistic elements are seamlessly integrated with the architectural vocabulary of the surrounding campus. As Mies van der Rohe’s only masonry building built outside of Europe, the Carr Memorial Chapel is recognized for its historic and aesthetic importance. The all-brick exterior belies Modernism's reputation for being cold, uniform, and indifferent. Here, the stoic simplicity of the building's outer shell encourages visitors to turn spiritually inward. 

The rededication included statements by T. Gunny Harboe (the project’s restoration architect), Barbara Donnelley (a Mies van der Rohe Society board member), Lynne Meyer (Director of Spiritual Life at the Illinois Institute of Technology), and Aron Dunlap (Assistant Professor at Shimer College). The program concluded with a chamber music performance by the Civitas Ensemble and a closing reception.

For more details about the event, visit the Illinois Institute of Technology’s website.

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