Chicago Building Wins U.S. Building of the Year

John Hill
4. February 2020
Photo: Steve Hall © Hall+Merrick

Your votes determined that the Illinois Institute of Technology's Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, designed by Chicago's John Ronan Architects, is the 2019 Building of the Year on American-Architects.

The Kaplan Institute is the first academic building to open on the famed campus of Mies van der Rohe's Illinois Tech in more than forty years. The building, named for alumnus Ed Kaplan and his wife, Carol, had its ribbon cutting on October 25, 2018, and was featured as a Building of the Week on our website in early 2019. Following from its name, the building "houses facilities and equipment for implementing novel, educational, and entrepreneurial strategies," including the new home for the Institute of Design.

The glowing ETFE facade in the evening, looking toward the entrance courtyard on the west side of the building. (Photo: Steve Hall © Hall+Merrick)

The most striking aspect of the design by John Ronan Architects is the second-floor facade of ETFE foil cushions that shades the interiors during the day and glows white in the evening. This floor overhangs the recessed first floor, thereby shading the transparent glass walls that are in line with the older campus buildings designed by Mies. Two central courtyards are open to the campus, serving as entrances to the building and bringing natural light deep into the building's rectangular plan. Interior spaces are organized around these two courtyards, most notably the Victor Morgenstern Pitch, whose stadium seats were the venue for the inauguration and now host events in line with the building's mission.

The second floor bridges the entrances the courtyards; here we see the one accessed from the east. (Photo: Steve Hall © Hall+Merrick)
Previous Building of the Year winners on American-Architects:

The Victor Morgenstern Pitch, an event space and one of the "collision nodes for chance meetings and information exchange across departments." (Photo: Steve Hall © Hall+Merrick)

The Building of the Year poll on American-Architects was open during the month of January and asked visitors to the website to pick their favorite from the 43 Buildings of the Week from 2019. The Kaplan Institute was the clear winner with 25% of the votes. The three runners up — all clustered at around 10% of the votes, about twice as much as the projects immediately following them — are highlighted below.

Second place: Idlewild Education Building Renovation in Memphis, Tennessee, by brg3s architects had 9% of the votes. (Photo: Chad Mellon)
Third place: The Hive in Austin, Texas, by Studio 512 had 8.5% of the votes. (Photo: Whit Preston)
Fourth place: Eco House on Shelter Island, New York, by Atelier Vibeke Lichten had 8.25% of the votes (Photo: Evan Joseph)

Congratulations to the winner and runners-up, and thanks to you, our readers, for voting!

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