Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969)

The German-American architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe was one of the most influential representatives of theInternational Style. He believed that “less is more,” and he designed rational and minimalist skyscrapers, houses, and furniture.

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969): portrait in black and white of the designer.
Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969)

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About His Life

Born in Germany in 1886, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe broke new ground with his architectural designs, starting as a draftsman before striking out later on his own. During World War I, Mies served in the German military and became a well-known architect in Germany. He created famous structures, such as the German Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona Exposition. Additionally, he acted as the third and lastBauhausdirector. In the late 1930s, Mies immigrated to the United States, where he created such well-known Modernist works as the Lake Shore Drive Apartments and the Seagram Building. He died in 1969.

His Multifaceted Body of Work

Before Mies immigrated to the United States, he had already realized several remarkable architecture pieces.

  • TheUrbig House(1917) in Potsdam, Germany
  • TheAfrikanische Strasse(1925) in Berlin, Germany, which filled Berlin’s growing need for middle-class housing.
  • TheWeissenhofsiedlung(1927) in Stuttgart, Germany, was composed of 20 buildings (now with 11 surviving).
  • TheBarcelona Pavillion, demolished in 1930 at the 1929 World’s Fair, was designed by Mies and other 17 architects. Later, rebuilt on the same site.
  • TheLange and Esters Houses(1930) in Krefeld, Germany
  • TheBauhaus Berlin(1930)在柏林,德国和曾derelict factory that the students renovated under Mies’ direction.
  • TheVilla Tugendhat(1930) in Brno-Brno-sever, Czech Republic
  • TheLemke House(1933) in Berlin, Germany, is the last house by mies in Germany.
Exterior of the Barcellona Pavilion by Mies Van der Rohe and 17 other architects.
Barcellona Pavilion (1927) by Mies Van Der Rohe

Image source: Maggi Architetto

The Barcelona Pavilion, Mies van der Rohe's iconic work of modern architecture, is a unique perceptual experience shaped using techniques such as symmetry, staging, and reflectivity.
The Barcelona Pavilion interior

Image source: Maggi Architetto

His Work in the United States

After he arrived in the United States, Mies wasted no time getting to work. He designed the Illinois Institute of Technology, then known as the Armour Institute, the Promontory Apartments, and the Farnsworth House, which is one of the best examples of Americanmodernism. Additionally, he designed the Lake shore Apartments, composed of a pair of steel-fronted towers, the Crown Hall, home of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Seagram Building, and Lafayette Park, which is on the site of a slum and intended to prevent the middle-class from fleeing to the suburbs.

Seagram Building shown from the ground up.
Seagram Building by Mies Van Der Rohe in New York

Image source: Brown Architecture

Lafayette Park in Detroit, Michigan is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places: Simple, rectangular structure with lots of windows.
Lafayette Park in Detroit, Michigan is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places

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In his late years, he designed the New National Gallery, in Berlin, Germany, which opened in 1968 and cantilevers a primary exhibit hall over a glassy central pavilion. The characteristic open interior space defies the traditional, heavily-partitioned museum experience.

Photo of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Neue Nationalgalerie by Mies van Der Rohe in Berlin

Image source: Manning

Mies, often collaborating withLilly Reich, designed modern furniture pieces using the then-new industrial technologies. They created pieces that have become popular classics, such as theBarcelona chair, the Brno chair, and the Tugendhat chair. His furniture, known for its fine craftsmanship, has a mix of traditional luxurious fabrics like leather combined with modern chrome frames. Additionally, it often has a distinct separation of the supporting structure and the supported surfaces, employing cantilevers to enhance the feeling of lightness created by the delicate structural frames.

Barcelona Chair, 1929, by Ludwig Mies van de Rohe and Reich.
Barcelona Chair (1929) by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Reich

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Barcelona Chair in the German Pavillion of Universal Exhibition in Barcelona (1929), by Mies and Reich.
Barcelona Chair in the German Pavillion of Universal Exhibition in Barcelona (1929) by Mies and Reich

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Identifying Mies’ Style

Mies van der Rohe and his designs were deemed nothing less than visionary, placing him at the forefront ofmodernarchitecture. Also, not only did he set the standard for all modernist design, but brought European modernism to America. He is often associated with the aphorisms, less is more

The Details

Mies’s attitude towards architecture and design was shaped by some avant-garde art schools, which blossomed in the 1920s, including the Bauhaus, embodied by the works ofWalter Gropius, the DutchDe Stijlgroup, the RussianConstructivism, the design concepts of the Czech-born architectAdolf Loos(1870-1933), and the American Prairie Style building designs ofFrank Lloyd Wright(1867-1959).

Further, he pioneered the extensive use of glass in buildings. In addition, his works introduced a new level of simplicity and transparency, and his buildings were often referred to as “skin-and-bones” architecture for their emphasis on steel structure and glass enclosure.

S. R. Crown Hall by Mies Van Der Rohe in Chicago: photo of the structure from the road.
S. R. Crown Hall by Mies Van Der Rohe in Chicago

Image source: Alfred Hess

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