"There's no program, but there is a client," explains architect Dirk Denison of the studio he's conducting at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) with longtime friend film critic Jonathan Miller. The two instructors and 12 upper-level undergraduate and graduate students meet in Room 214 of 3410 South State St.—a building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe less than 50 yards south of the renowned Crown Hall, but so unremarkable that IIT can only place its construction between 1945 and 1953.
The studio's nonexistent "program" is the development of abstract, media-based content for a temporary pavilion to be designed by Zaha Hadid and constructed in Millennium Park next summer, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago. For Marco Trusewych, a fifth-year undergraduate, the opportunity to be influenced by Hadid was appealing, and so was the challenge of a conceptual problem that wouldn't necessarily result in a building design. "They're open for you to be off the wall," he says of the critics. "But you have to really own your ideas."
"IIT is in a time warp," observes fourth-year undergrad Natalia Klusek. "Drawing 10,000 bricks isn't going to make you think critically," is how she describes some of her previous studios at the school. Klusek's early concept for this project—rendered in hand-drawn sketches, CAD plans, sections, and 3-D modeling—is a field of potentially sophisticated, engineered sticks that visitors might use for any number of purposes. "There's a social aspect to the proposal," says Miller during a critique—laying out a possible direction for her unorthodox solution to take.