Conceived by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as a “campus in a park,” the grounds were designed by Alfred Caldwell in the 1940s. The modernist design at Illinois Institute of Technology invokes a solid-void pattern, where the solids (buildings) are symmetrically ordered around a central axis (33rd Street). The voids (green spaces between buildings) flow into one another. This theme of flow is continued in the transparent nature of the glass and steel buildings, which create a continuous vista around the campus. Trees with delicate leaves (such as honey locusts) were planted and limbed up, and shrubs were planted sparingly to enhance transparency of the ground plane at eye level.
In the 1990s, the evolved campus underwent restoration and a new master plan was drafted for the West Campus in 1999. This transformed State Street from a boundary line into a unifying element: on-street parking was removed, the boulevard was enlarged, and leafy catalpas, elms, and ash trees with extensive canopies were planted. Crown Hall Field was graded with sloping lawns for seating and an open center for recreation and play. In 2002, the Pritzker-Galvin Grove and fountain were added to the northeastern corner of the field. The campus was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.