Kluczynski Federal Building

Kluczynski Federal Building
  1. About the Kluczynski Federal Building in Chicago
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Kluczynski Federal Building is an International Style skyscraper designed between 1959 and 1966 by Mies van der Rohe, in association with Schmidt, Garden and Erikson, C. F. Murphy Associates, A. Epstein and Sons, and built between 1974 and 1975 in Chicago, IL.

Its precise street address is 230 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The Kluczynski Federal Building is part of the Chicago Federal Center.

The origins of the complex can be found in Mayor's Richard J. Daley vision to save Chicago's economy, which suffered a lot in the 1950's. In the late 50s the US government announced a plan to update their facilities, and Mayor Richard J. Daley made a bid for the government to set up some of their facilities in this new complex that would be designed by Mies van der Rohe.

His plan paid off. The government bought into the idea of this new complex in the Loop district of Chicago, and brought in thousands of employees, which helped begin to recovered the delicate economy of the city..

The building underwent a major restoration between 2011 and 2013. The architect commissioned to undertake this restoration was Cannon Design.

Building's timeline

Design begins
Design completed
Construction begins
Construction completed
years ago
  1. 2011 to 2013 - The curtain wall was repaired and repainted. A key focus for the renovation was sustainability, to enhance the indoor environment by incorporating eco-friendly materials. All 78 bathrooms in the building were renovated, including floors and walls. The renovation also included the incorporation of high-level water efficiency systems, and provided energy-efficient solutions within all building systems, managing to get it LEED-Gold certified. The architect in charge was Cannon Design.

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

Mies van der Rohe was in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline, which usually involves many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but at the very least we know that there was one other part involved, that was KONE as the company in charge of the elevators system.

Architectural Style

The Kluczynski Federal Building 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 Kluczynski Federal Building was designed in 1959. By 1959 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 Kluczynski Federal Building was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Kluczynski Federal Building reaches an architectural height of 561ft (171m). It has a total of 45 floors, 42 above ground and 3 basements.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1975, the Kluczynski Federal Building has mainly been used as Governmental space.

561ft (171m)
3 basements

Materials & Structure

The Kluczynski Federal Building uses a frame structure made of steel columns and 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.

Similarly to his approach at the IIT campus, and building on his idea of "universal space", Mies organized not just this building, but the entire complex, on a 8,53m grid pattern subdivided into six 1,42m modules. This pattern extends from the granite-paved plaza into the ground-floor lobby of the complex towers, where the floors and elevator lobby walls are also granite. The lines of the grid continue vertically up the buildings, integrating each component of the complex.

Every element of the three buildings forming the Federal Center complex, the columns, benches, doors, pavers, or lamps, are aligned within this grid, illustrating one of Mies van der Rohe's well-known maxims: 'God is in the details"

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

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

Another material found at the Kluczynski Federal Building is granite, used on the walls and floor of the lobby, thus providing continuity from the outise to the inside.