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ETFE foil cushions offer cloud-like shade

Projects | October 1, 2017 | By:

Designed to focus on innovative thinking and transitioning new ideas into products and processes, the new 70,000-square-foot Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship broke ground in August of 2016. It is expected to open in 2018. ETFE foil cushions will give the building sophisticated, sustainable shade. Photos: John Ronan Architects.

It’s only appropriate that the design for a building dedicated to fostering innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration should itself push the envelope on creativity. So it is with the new Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, currently under construction at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

The institute will be the new home of the Institute of Design on the school’s Mies Campus and will enhance the activities of Illinois Tech’s Interprofessional Projects Program, which offers students real-world project-based experience; the Entrepreneurship Academy, Jules Knapp Entrepreneurship Center; and Idea Shop.

Designed by Chicago-based John Ronen Architects, the building is organized around two open-air courtyards that also serve as entrances. These “collision nodes” encourage meetings and information exchange across departments. Interior spaces are open and flexible, and can easily be reconfigured for different uses.
The horizontally-scaled design includes large, open floors that will allow individuals to connect to multiple spaces at one time. Visual access from floor to floor will promote the feeling of being part of one collaborative community.

While the building is designed to be light-filled and airy, it will also feature a sustainable solution to protect against the sun: The second floor will cantilever over the ground floor, creating shade. It will be enclosed in a fascia of ETFE foil cushions, which adjust the amount of solar energy entering the building through sophisticated pneumatics. The ETFE foil is one percent the weight of glass, and gives the building’s façade a light, cloud-like appearance. For more information, visit

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