Carr Chapel on the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Main Campus is Mies’ only realized spiritual space. Its simplicity suits the variety of student religious groups that use the space, but it has long been in need of restoration.
Thanks to Mies members, Carr Chapel is closer to its original bright and clean condition.
Below is a brief essay from Dudley Fisher, former employee of the Mies van der Rohe Society, on his recent visit to the Chapel.
Here I am on a cool fall morning walking up to the Chapel’s front door, turning one of my favorite Chapel details, its bronze door handles. I see two familiar faces, Justine Jentes, Mies Society Director and Gunny Harboe, the restoration architect who crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s to make the restoration as complete as possible. Justine and Gunny were about to start the orientation for the Chapel’s restoration to a group of Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) docents who were anxious to hear about the Chapel’s restoration process. I proudly have a fragile attention span and as Gunny progressed through his PowerPoint presentation, I marvel in the changes I saw in the structure. Gone were much of the scarred brick inside and out, clean was the structure’s roof line, gone was the graffiti that had emblazoned the Chapel’s north elevation during the entire fundraising process. Gunny presented technical image after technical image of how the Chapel was turning into the simple gem it was on that fall Saturday morning. I was in awe of how magnificent details like the wood panels and trim that frame the altar area were perfect, my last recollection was they were beyond repair, oh was I wrong!
It was obvious the work of IIT, the Mies Society and Gunny Harboe had performed was most appreciated. Ironically, at about the end of the lecture, along comes a CAF tour pointing out to visitors what we had been discovering.
If you are in downtown Chicago, please head on down to IIT (it is only a Green Line ride away from the Loop) and enjoy this simple, yet powerful structure.
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