ILMA of the Week: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (March 27, 1886 – August 19, 1969) was a German-American Architect commonly referred to, and was addressed, as Mies, his surname. He served as the last director of Berlin’s Bauhaus, and then headed the department of architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, where he developed the Second Chicago School. Along with Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, and Frank Lloyd Wright, he is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern Architecture.

Mies, like many of his post-World War I contemporaries, sought to establish a new architectural style that could represent modern times just as Classical and Gothic did for their own eras. He created an influential twentieth century architectural style, stated with extreme clarity and simplicity. His mature buildings made use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define interior spaces. He strove toward an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of free-flowing open space. He called his buildings “skin and bones” architecture. He sought a rational approach that would guide the creative process of architectural design, but he was always concerned with expressing the spirit of the modern era. He is often associated with his quotation of the aphorisms, “less is more” and “God is in the details”.

Furniture

Mies designed modern furniture pieces using new industrial technologies that have become popular classics, such as the Barcelona chair and table, the Brno chair, and the Tugendhat chair. His furniture is known for fine craftsmanship, a mix of traditional luxurious fabrics like leather combined with modern chrome frames, and a distinct separation of the supporting structure and the supported surfaces, often employing cantilevers to enhance the feeling of lightness created by delicate structural frames. During this period, he collaborated closely with interior designer and companion Lilly Reich.

Educator

Mies played a significant role as an educator, believing his architectural language could be learned, then applied to design any type of modern building. He set up a new education at the department of architecture of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago replacing the traditional Ecole des Beaux-Art curriculum by a three-step-education beginning with crafts of drawing and construction leading to planning skills and finishing with theory of architecture (compare Vitruvius: firmitas, utilitas, venustas). He worked personally and intensively on prototype solutions, and then allowed his students, both in school and his office, to develop derivative solutions for specific projects under his guidance.

Architecture

A master of minimalism, he sought to define a new modernist architectural style after World War I and pioneered the use of modern materials such as glass and steel. His style was rejected by the Nazis as un-German and he emigrated to the United States in 1937, where he was appointed the head of an Architecture school in Chicago.

The Barcelona Pavilion (Spanish: Pabellón alemán; Catalan: Pavelló alemany; “German Pavilion”), designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain. This building was used for the official opening of the German section of the exhibition, It is an important building in the history of modern architecture, known for its simple form and its spectacular use of extravagant materials, such as marble, red onyx and travertine. The same features of minimalism and spectacular can be applied to the prestigious furniture specifically designed for the building, among which the iconic Barcelona chair.

Villa Tugendhat is a historical building in Brno, Czech Republic. It is one of the pioneering prototypes of modern architecture in Europe, and was designed by the German Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Built of reinforced concrete between 1928-1930 for Fritz Tugendhat and his wife Greta, the villa soon became an icon of modernism.

Widely regarded as Mies van Der Rohe’s masterpiece, Crown Hall in Chicago is one of the most architecturally significant buildings of the 20th Century Modernist movement. Crown Hall was completed in 1956 during Mies van der Rohe’s tenure as director of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Department of Architecture.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is the central facility of the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL). Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the 400,000 square foot (37,000 m²) steel, brick, and glass structure, and it is a rare example of modern architecture in Washington, D.C.

The Farnsworth House was designed and constructed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe between 1945-51. It is a one-room weekend retreat in a once-rural setting, located 55 miles (89 km) southwest of Chicago’s downtown on a 60-acre estate site, adjoining the Fox River, south of the city of Plano, Illinois. The steel and glass house was commissioned by Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a prominent Chicago nephrologist, as a place where she could engage in her hobbies.

In 1958, Mies van der Rohe designed what is often regarded as the pinnacle of the modernist high-rise architecture, the Seagram Building in New York City. Mies was chosen by the daughter of the client, Phyllis Bronfman Lambert, who has become a noted architectural figure and patron in her own right. The Seagram Building has become an icon of the growing power of the corporation, that defining institution of the twentieth century. In a bold and innovative move, the architect chose to set the tower back from the property line to create a forecourt plaza and fountain on Park Avenue.

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Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
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6 Comments on “ILMA of the Week: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe”

  1. you had me at Ludwig…I am so interested in anything Miesian….Pierce studied with him at IIT, I know he was greatly influenced by Mies. TY so much great piece! I like the “skin and bones”…..

  2. A man of many significant accomplishments. My favourite is the Seagram Building and more so the deep thought that Mies put into the gesign of it’s public space.
    Thank you!

  3. Gail Green says:

    This is a great series you’ve started….Thanks Frank!


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