Listen Live

(BLOOMINGTON, Ind.) – One of the most prominent architects of the 20th century has provided the design for IU Bloomington’s next building — more than half a century after his death.

Mies van der Rohe was one of the pioneers of Modernist architecture. In 1952, he designed a building for the Indiana University chapter of the Pi Lambda Phi. The project didn’t go forward, and the design was forgotten for more than 60 years. But one fraternity member, Sidney Eskenazi, hung on to some of the drawings. In 2013, Eskenazi, now an IU megadonor, mentioned them to president Michael McRobbie.

The university dug into Mies’s archived papers at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and found more drawings for the project.

The rediscovered design will now become reality as the Mies Building, for the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design. Faculty members will move in sometime during the fall semester, with the first classes there in the spring.

Dean Peg Faimon says except for adding an elevator and making some updates for today’s building code, such as thicker glass, it’s basically Mies’s original design. Faimon says the building is similar to the historic Farnsworth House southwest of Chicago, completed the year before the IU design. Both buildings are rectangular and elevated slightly above ground level, with floor-to-ceiling windows uniting the building with its natural surroundings.

Faimon calls the recovery of the long-lost design “astonishing.” McRobbie compares the significance of the addition to acquiring a new Picasso for the art museum.

The building will feature office and classroom space, with the flexibility to accommodate lectures and other temporary events. It expands the capacity of the five-year-old architectural school, which will continue to hold classes in Kirkwood Hall, the Fine Arts building, and a 13th Street annex, along with graduate classes at the Republic Building in Columbus.