Take Another Little Piece of My Mies

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Blair Kamin, the architecture critic of The Chicago Tribune, wrote a provocative little piece this morning to support the idea that it’s ok to tear down a tiny brick box structure located on a forlorn corner of the Mies van der Rohe-designed Illinois Institute of Technology. It faces demolition to make way for a new mass transit station.

Ten years ago I lived for a time in Chicago to pursue a post-grad fellowship at the University of Chicago — a program with Blair Kamin, as it happens — and I’ve been to the IIT campus a number of times, but can’t for the life of me recall this building. I first learned about the threat hanging over it a few weeks ago on “Hello Beautiful”, Edward Lifson’s blog, where he was pleading for the building to be spared.

I’m pretty much a fanatic when it comes to preserving important works by important architects. (Or even middling ones.) I’ll reserve judgment on this one until I have a chance to see the thing for myself — I’ll be out in Chicago next week for the opening of the new Renzo Piano addition to the Art Institute — but I’m inclined to side with Kamin on this one. Not every crumb that fell off Mies’ desk needs to be saved, especially if it stands in the way of an important infrastructure project. Preservationists shouldn’t pour their energies into distractions when there are plenty of real threats to worry about.