Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse

Everett Mckinley Dirksen Us Courthouse
  1. About the Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse is an International Style skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe, in association with Schmidt, Garden and Erikson, C. F. Murphy Associates, A. Epstein and Sons, and built between 1960 and 1964, for a reported $35.0 million dollars, in Chicago, IL.

Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse is not the only name you might know this building by though. It is common for companies to want to attach their names to iconic buildings when they move in, or for the general public to come up with nicknames, and this one is no exception. The Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse is also known, or has been known as, Dirksen Federal Building, or Dirksen Building.

Its precise street address is 219 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The Dirksen Federal Building is one of the three buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe that make up the Chicago Federal Center. The other two are the United States Post Office and the Kluczynski Federal Building, all connected by the Federal Plaza.

The entire complex is organized on a 8,53m grid pattern subdivided into six 1,42m modules. This pattern extends from the granite-paved plaza into the ground-floor lobbies of the complex towers, where the floors and elevator walls are also granite. The lines of the grid continue vertically up the buildings.

The building has been restored 3 times over the years to ensure its conservation and adaptation to the pass of time. The main restoration works happened in 1990, 2013 and 2013.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Construction completed
years ago
  1. 1990 - Additional courtrooms were created within the building following the original style and details.
  2. 2009 to 2013 - The restoration afected all levels of the building, adding ecological features to various systems. Thousands of fixtures, including fan boxes, perimeter induction units, ceiling fans, air handling units were replaced, and LED lighting was installed. Additionally, 46 bathrooms were renovated. The architect in charge was Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
  3. 2009 to 2013 - Exterior curtain wall repair and repainting the facade structure with Miesian black paint.. The architect in charge was Cannon Desing.

Architect and team

Mies van der Rohe was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design, in association with Schmidt, Garden and Erikson, C. F. Murphy Associates, A. Epstein and Sons.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in 1886 in Germany. During the first part of his career, he ran his own practice in Berlin, and later on became the director of the Bauhaus School of Architecture.

Mies is considered one of the fathers of modern architecture. His work played an instrumental role in defining the aesthetics of the International Style, emphasizing simplicity, clean lines, and the use of modern materials like steel and glass. His famous statement, "less is more" sums up his design philosophy, which advocated for the elimination of unnecessary ornamentation and a return to the fundamental principles of architecture.

After the Bauhaus was shut down by the Natzi regime, he emigrated to Chicago. There he became the director of the IIT School of Architecture, as well as ran his own architectural firm. During his years in Chicago he continued to explore and promote the principles of the International Style, and had a huge impact on the development of modern skyscrapers.

His legacy can not only be found spread throughout Europe and the US in the shape of iconic buildings such as the German Pavilion, the Tugendhat House, the Crown Hall or the Seagram Building, but also in the architecture curriculum he developed at the IIT which greatly influenced many generations of architects, even to this day.

Mies Van Der Rohe

Architectural Style

The Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse can be categorized as an International Style building.

The international style originated in Europe in the early 20th century, and made its way to the US a couple of decades later when the rise of the Nazi regime forced figures such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, or Mies van der Rohe to flee Europe.

The International Style emerged as a response to the prevailing historicism and ornate architecture styles of the late 19th century, which according to a younger generation of architects didn't represent the new materials and construction techniques that were on the rise at the time.

Architecture in the early 20th century US was marked by the adoption of steel structures, modern construction techniques, and the rise of the skyscraper. As it turns out, this combination of circumstances created the perfect ecosystem for the International Style to flourish, becoming the to-go style for skyscraper designs during the mid-20th century, when American cities were growing fast.

The International Style’s legacy can not only be found in numerous iconic buildings across all major American cities, but also incorporated in contemporary architecture, which still puts a big emphasis on functionality and minimalism.

The Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse was completed in 1964. By 1964 the International Style movement had already left its early days behind and could be considered a mature movement, which does not mean it was loved and accepted by everyone, on the contrary. The International Style was accepted by the architecture community way before it was by the general public, and it is therefore likely that the Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse reaches an architectural height of 384ft (117m). It has a total of 30 floors, 27 above ground and 3 basements.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1964, the Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse has mainly been used as Governmental space.

384ft (117m)
3 basements

Materials & Structure

The Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse uses a frame structure made of steel columns and reinforced concrete slabs.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade is non-load bearing either, as it is common in frame structure type buildings.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features bronze-tinted glass windows with bright aluminum frames, matte black steel spandrels, and projecting black-painted I-beam sunshades. This organization emphasizes the impressive height of the tower.

The building is elevated on pilotis at the plaza level, allowing for a retracted double-height lobby that attempts to reduce the barriers between inside and outside .

Another material found at the Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse is black-walnut, found in the walls of the Courtrooms.