Mies van der Rohe emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1938, ostensibly to take up the position of head of the architecture school at the Armour Institute of Technology, Chicago (renamed the Illinois Institute of Technology shortly after his arrival there). Perhaps more important to him, though, was his understanding with the president of Armour that he would be the architect of the school's master plan for a new campus—an unprecedented opportunity for him to design an assemblage of structures in an urban center. Mies undertook preliminary studies for the campus plan between 1939 and 1941. While practicing in Berlin, Mies had been fascinated by the tall buildings of American cities. In Illinois, he developed a new architectural language that honored American steel technology and responded to the logic of the urban grid, seeking a balance between the pedestrian campus and the existing axes of the city.
Gallery label from 75 Years of Architecture at MoMA, 2007.