AD Classics: IBM Building / Mies van der Rohe

© Jeffery Howe

Completed four years after architect Mies van der Rohe‘s passing, the became one of the cities most prestigious addresses. A pure symbol of the architecture of the time, the almost 700 foot tall rectangle sits on a raised plinth that helps it to maintain a uniform height given the unevenness of the site; State Street to the structure’s west inclines steeply.

More on the IBM Building, also known as 330 North Wabash, after the break.

© Bluffton University

As architecture, the IBM Building, along with many others designed by Mies van der Rohe, becomes synonymous with corporate power. Black anodized aluminum and gray-tinted glass are used together to create a uniform skin that gives the appearance of a single imposing and impressive volume. It’s strength and clarity of form are distinguishable and appreciated along the skyline, a tribute to the lifelong study of structural expression, organizational scale, material simplicity, proportion, and constructive detail.

© Bluffton University

Positioned on a riverside site, the IBM Building is open to views of the lake, and is very striking to passerby crossing over the river. It marks one of the last American buildings done by Mies van der Rohe, and also the tallest of all his buildings at 670 feet. His participation in it’s construction was comprable to that of an  observer, as he was growing older and even passed away a year before the completion of the structure.

© Bluffton University

In it’s initial context, the IBM Building dominated it’s surroundings, including the lower Chicago Sun-Times building to the east. This building was torn down and instead sits an under-construction behemoth of Donald Trump, standing 1,100 feet tall which may arguably block many of the views from the IBM Building.

© Bluffton University

Recent news about the building has been centered around the conversion of the office building into residential rentals as IBM left for other quarters. This left the building with a new name, 330 North Wabash, and new intentions as a downtown building in Chicago. Currently 36% of the building’s space is not in use, and within a few years another 16 floors will empty as a result of the anticipated move of law firm Jenner and Block.

© Bluffton University

The current plan is to convert floors 3 through 14 into about 275 condos, and continue on with the conversion as more floors become vacant. Although sales prices are around half of those for the high-end Trump units that are right next door, the fact that the IBM is now blocked in by taller structures along the east and west facades may make it more difficult to sell.

Although as it once was, the IBM Building has not yet been declared an official landmark, meaning that there still is not legal protection against dramatic or destructive alterations.

Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Project Year: 1971-1973
References: Werner Blaser, Jean-Louis Cohen
Photographs: Bluffton University, J. Crocker, Jeffery Howe

Cite: Sveiven, Megan. "AD Classics: IBM Building / Mies van der Rohe" 07 Mar 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Michael

    My brother worked in the building for a summer about 20 years ago and said the floorplate was well-suited to the law firm he was with. Would think that would still be the case.

  • Carlos Lanuza

    According to Wikipedia:

    “The building was declared a Chicago Landmark on February 6, 2008 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 26, 2010. It is also the newest building in Chicago in terms of age on both lists.”

  • J E Strubbe

    While I realize most buildings of the international style often had neutral lobbies that “became” the large commissioned art pieces they were adorned by, and the IBM corporation had a wonderful corporate collection, I am curious what the present state of the lobby may be, and wonder why there were no interior shots used in this article.