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IIT Innovation Center

John Ronan Architects

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Project Description


The Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Technology is devoted to fostering collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurship between IIT’s students, faculty, alumni and partners.  The building will host a variety of collaboration spaces for IIT’s project-based experiences, contain state-of-the art prototyping and fabrication facilities, and serve as the Mies campus home for the Institute of Design.  In the Kaplan Institute, the creative ideas of IIT faculty and students become meaningful innovations.

The horizontal, open and light-filled building is designed to encourage 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.  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. 

Circulation inside the building is indirect and dispersed, designed to promote collaboration and interaction.  Large open horizontal floor plates allow visual connection to multiple spaces at one time, while openings in the floor plate allow visual access from floor to floor to foster the feeling of a single collaborative community of users.

The building provides flexibly adaptive space to accommodate a wide range of interdisciplinary classes and project types.  Interior space consists primarily of large, open, flexibly adaptive spaces which can be reconfigured easily and support a wide variety of uses.  Assigned project spaces and meeting spaces which require sound isolation are enclosed with demountable partition which can be reconfigured over time, preserving the building’s future flexibility. 

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 1% the weight of glass and gives the building a light, cloud-like appearance. 

Building systems are similarly advanced:  water-filled tubing embedded in a concrete-filled metal deck converts the building’s floor structure into a radiant heating and cooling system.  Courtyards serve as the building’s “eyes” and “lungs” bringing in natural light and ventilation to create a comfortable and healthy interior environment for collaboration.

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