Through the Silver Tube: A look at OMA

[1] featured image

“Through the Silver Tube” transports the reader on a journey from the perspective of a visitor’s approach from the city of Chicago to the interior of the McCormick Tribune Campus Center. Cody Poage strives to connect to the sensory, allowing the reader to join him on his experience – to observe the visual stimulations and feel the visceral phenomenon. As we venture together, Poage orchestrates a dialect between Rem Koolhaas and Mies van der Rohe that is visible in various exemplified architectural moments. The ability to shift between the implications of the project from a large scope to recognition of intimate design details strengthens Poage’s critical analysis of the OMA project

– Editor: Kyle Berger

Through the Silver Tube: a look at OMA

March 8, 2018

Author: Cody Poage

A glimmering metal tube with orange accents juts out from the tree line. This is the first visual icon as one walks towards the McCormick Tribune Campus Center in Chicago. It rests at the heart of the IIT campus, with respect to the original master plan designed by the late Mies van de Rohe. As one is approaching the structure, for what seems to be split by a large horizontal tube, they can abruptly hear the noise of the L train screaming on the tracks above, with echoes coming soon after. Through the main entry sequence, you are greeted with bright and vibrant colors on the floor, which represent the different functions (reminiscent of the color coding Centre Pompidou). There is an odd but interesting ceiling material made of unpainted gypsum board, with plaster covering the joints. This goes to show the interesting choice of materials that the architect, Rem Koolhaas, loves to integrate in many of his projects.








The program of the building advocated for a single-story space, to concentrate all the functional spaces together. This forms a redefined area of programmatic spaces. The architect was trying to design a space where students and bodies of people can engage with one another while cultivating a connection between this area of the IIT campus and the city of Chicago (which was disconnected before). The main idea of this project was to revitalize the campus and create a centralized space to gather. Within the complex fabric of the project is a sense of competing respect and banter between Mies and Rem. I think it is interesting with the modern design to use the resulting material choices and vibrant colors that contradicts what Mies stood for. However, Koolhaas also included multiple visual respects to Mies with a portrait pasted on one of the doors – visible to all when entering and exiting the space.

When entering the space, one is confronted with the decision on what direction to take. The roof structure acts as a diagonal and minimizes the head height creating a feeling of enclosure and uneasiness. The taping over the drywall is angled in the direction of travel as you head to a multilevel space, engulfed with a series of a stair and ramp combinations. I believe this is where Koolhaas was intending to create a very dynamic space with multiple level changes in contrast to many projects Mies designed. When finding your way through the space, a brief area of bright orange light floods the space with interesting shadow details through the glass.


I think Koolhaas and the OMA design team was effective in the design, and the variety of aspects it addresses – especially the differences in form, use of color, and adaptability of cross programming that occurs in the space. One of the major design issues involved in the project was accommodating for the “L” transportation system that confronts the building site. OMA responded to the “L” system’s disruption of space and materiality disconnect to create an intriguing interior spatial experience. However, I hypothesize Mies would have degraded the building due to his notion of, “less is more”. Nonetheless, Koolhaas designed the building with interesting detail. It is ultimately a space that one can emerge lost within. But, between the interesting exterior and interior connections and the ground and ceiling conditions that occur in the space, the visceral experience is alluring.


Works Cited:

[1] OMA. “IIT McCormick Tribune Campus Center.” OMA,

[2] The remaining photos and sketches were made and/or taken by the author, Cody Poage.


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