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Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig

Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig (1886–1969). German architect, one of the most influential of International Modernism. Without any formal architectural education, he went to Berlin in 1905 to work for Bruno Paul. In the following year he designed the Riehl House at Neubabelsberg near Berlin (completed 1907), which drew on the English Arts-and-Crafts style promoted by Muthesius in Das Englische Haus (1904–5). In 1908 he joined the atelier of Behrens, where he met Gropius and Adolf Meyer, among others, and absorbed something of Behrens's style, mingled with a strong flavour of the severe architecture of Schinkel, Behrens's hero. Several suburban villas followed, including the Perls (later Fuchs) House, Zehlendorf, Berlin (1911), in which the precedent of Schinkel's domestic architecture was clear. He also designed a monument (unrealized) to Bismarck for a rocky promontory at Bingen-am-Rhein, which anticipated the stripped Classicism of Speer later in C20. Indeed, from 1911 his designs were influenced by Behrens's interest in a simplified Classicism, as displayed at Behrens's Imperial German Embassy, St Petersburg, Russia (1911–12—which Mies supervised). On his own account Mies (as he then was) worked on a project for the Kröller-Müller House and Gallery, The Hague, The Netherlands (1912–13), which was influenced by Schinkel's work at Potsdam and Glienicke and by F. L. Wright's designs which were known through Wasmuth's publications (notably of 1910) and the 1911 exhibition. In 1912 he established his own Berlin practice (even though the Kröller-Müller project fell through) and designed three houses in a stripped Neo-Classical style (house at Heerstrasse, Berlin (1913), Urbig House, Neubabelsberg (1914), and Mies House, Werder (1914) ). Even the Kempner House, Berlin (1920—de-stroyed), had stylistic similarities to the prewar houses, but had a flat roof and an arched loggia (again influenced by Schinkel's Italianate round-arched style).

After the 1914–18 war, when the political climate in Germany had shifted Leftwards, Gropius organized (1919) an exhibition of architecture considered suitable for the new era. Mies submitted his 1912–13 Kröller-Müller designs which Gropius (a convinced believer in the tabula rasa) refused to accept because of its clear links to historical precedent. The result was a transformation: Mies (which has connotations with what is seedy, wretched, and out of sorts, though its cuddly pussy-cat associations were preferred in the UK) became Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (which sounds vaguely grand (the pretentious ‘van der’) as well as having allusions to bareness, rawness, and roughness (his mother's name was Rohe) ); and the new Mies van der Rohe emerged as a radical Leftist Modernist. He joined the Novembergruppe (1921), becoming its President in 1923. His ‘Five Projects’ of the period (1921–3) included the unrealized glass-clad Friedrichstrasse Office Block, published by Bruno Taut. Then followed the design for a Glass Skyscraper (1922), the Concrete Office Block (1922—one of the first designs to have the International-style strip- or ribbon-window arrangement), the Brick Country House (1923— influenced by van Doesburg and De Stijl in its composition of cubic volumes), and the Concrete Country House (1923—designed for a sloping site and with a plan resembling a swastika cross). The last project had powerfully emphasized overhanging horizontals reminiscent of Wright's work, counterbalanced by the big vertical block of the chimney, while the configuration of the L- and T-plan-shapes of the walls of the Brick Country House is one of the first instances of walls being disposed according to the principles of De Stijl composition. In 1923 he exhibited at a show of De Stijl work in Paris, and made contact with the protagonists of Russian Constructivism and Suprematism. He also exhibited in Berlin and Weimar (in the latter case at the invitation of Gropius, who was mollified by Mies's conversion to the cause). Nevertheless, he was still designing suburban houses in his prewar Arts-and-Crafts and Neo-Classical modes, a fact that was carefully concealed in later hagiographies.

With Bartning, Behrendt, Häring, Mendelsohn, Poelzig, the Tauts, and others, he formed Der Ring, which rapidly became a nationwide organization to reject all historical allusions and styles and to prepare the ground for an architecture of the new epoch supposedly to be based (or to look as though it was based) on contemporary technology. In 1926 Mies designed the monument (destroyed 1933) to the Socialist and Spartacist Karl Liebknecht (1871–1919), the Polish Communist agitator Rosa Luxemburg (1870–1919), and the November 1918 Revolution in the Friedrichsfelde Friedhof, Berlin: of brick projecting and receding planes on which the hammer and sickle were predominantly displayed, it was nevertheless based on a steel-framed construction (so much for ‘honesty’ of expression in building). In the same year he designed the Wolf House, Guben (destroyed), where blocky masses of brick were pierced with windows, and all Historicist references were expunged.

Mies and other members of Der Ring were elected to the Deutscher Werkbund in 1926, which, as a result, shifted ground from its historical mission to promote good industrial design and crafts to become a bullying pressure-group promoting the ‘new architecture’, i.e. that approved by Mies and his circle. As Vice-President of the Werkbund and Director of the proposed Weissenhofsiedlung Exhibition in Stuttgart (1927), he consolidated his reputation as leader of the avant-garde. The exhibition, for which he designed the master-plan and the long apartment-block on the highest land, contained temporary structures as well as over twenty permanent buildings, including villas, designed by leading German and other Modernists, including Bourgeois, Le Corbusier, Oud, and Stam. Predominant motifs were long horizontal strips of windows, smooth white walls, and flat roofs: the image of the cult of International Modernism had been found. Mies was also able to exhibit his tubular-steel chair, the earliest of several later variations that were to place him among the foremost furniture designers of C20. For the International Exposition, Barcelona (1928–9), shortly after he completed the Lange House, Krefeld, Mies designed the German Pavilion with a flat roof supported on steel columns clad in chromium-plated casings and walls of onyx and marble (some of which projected beyond the roof). This little building (demolished 1929, reconstructed 1983–4), exquisitely and expensively detailed, won immediate approval and became one of the most admired paradigms of the late 1920s. It was furnished with Mies's ‘Barcelona Chair’, consisting of a chromium-plated frame with black leather upholstered back and seat. Then followed the Tugendhat House, Brno, Czechoslovakia (1930), with a single storey on the street-frontage and two storeys facing the garden. The living-room was a continuous space with chromium-cased steel columns and free-standing panel, derived from the Barcelona design, while the full-height windows could be fully lowered out of sight, enabling the interior space to extend into the garden terrace. Every detail of the house was purpose-made, designed by the architect.

In 1930 Mies was appointed to run the Dessau Bauhaus on Gropius's recommendation following the dismissal of Hannes Meyer, and emphasized instruction within a more clearly-defined pedagogic structure, but the mayhem of mismanagement over the previous years had done the damage, and in 1932 the National Socialist majority in the Dessau Town Council closed the institution. Mies attempted to reconstitute the Bauhaus in a disused factory at Berlin-Steglitz, but it shut in 1933. It has been widely claimed that Mies left Germany because of Nazi hostility to his work, but Mies remained in Germany for five more years, and was one of the signatories of the Proclamation by leading German artists urging voters to support Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) following the death of President (from 1925) Paul von Hindenburg (1847–1934). Mies and Gropius both joined the Visual Arts section of the Nazi-sponsored Reich Culture Chamber, and submitted designs (predictably decorated with Swastikas) for architecture competitions; some Modernist designs for Autobahn service stations by Mies were personally approved by Hitler. Indeed Mies attempted to show that Modernism was apolitical, but this was a complete reversal of his position a decade earlier, and his apostasy did not go unnoticed. However, it is becoming clear that Hitler (who was uninterested in tedious doctrinal disputes among architects) saw Modernism as suitable for factories, bridges, airports, Autobahn structures, and so on, while a stripped Neo-Classicism was to be used for State and Party purposes, (because of its austerity, power, and simplicity), and a vernacular style for housing (especially in the country), a position not much differing from the official line in many other countries (including the democracies) of the period. Furthermore, Mies's gnomic remark that architecture is ‘the will of the epoch translated into space’ was used, almost verbatim, by Hitler, many of whose ex cathedra sayings were very close to those spouted by the Bauhäusler. It soon became apparent, however, that there was not going to be much architectural work in an economy geared increasingly to war, and Mies decided to leave Germany to pursue his career. In 1938 he settled in Chicago, IL, where he became Director of the Architecture Department of the Armour Institute (later Illinois Institute of Technology). From 1940 he redesigned the campus and buildings, placing rectangular blocks on an overall grid, exposing the steel frames, and designing all the junctions with his customary meticulous care (he claimed ‘God is in the detail’). He invented a sophisticated language of metal-and-glass architecture, shown to best effect at the Farnsworth House, Fox River, Plano, IL (1946–50), in which the terrace-slab, floor-slab, and roof-slabs were all raised from the ground and carried on steel stanchions of I section. This open glass-sided pavilion idea with impeccable detailing was used by Mies on several occasions, e.g. Crown Hall, IIT, Chicago (1952–6), and the National Gallery, Tiergarten, Berlin (1962–8). The Lake Shore Drive Apartments, Chicago (1950–1) had steel frames, while the huge Seagram Skyscraper, NYC (1954–8—with Philip Johnson (who did much to promote the Authorized Version of Mies's careeer) and Kahn & Jacobs), was clad in bronze and glass. Mies's influence cannot be overstated, and, with Le Corbusier and Gropius, he completed what might be regarded as the Trinity of Modernism. His impact worldwide is clear, and his metal-and-glass fronted buildings have been extensively (and often unintelligently) copied.

Bibliography

Bill (1955);
Blaser (1977, 1996, 1997);
P. Carter (1999);
J-L. Cohen (1996);
Cuito (ed.) (2002d);
Drexler (1960);
Glaeser (1977);
Hilbersheimer (1956);
Hitchcock & and P. Johnson (1995);
Hochman (ed.) (1989);
P. Johnson (1978);
Neumeyer (1991);
Riley & Bergdoll (eds.) (2002);
Safran (2001);
Schulze (1985, 1989);
Spotts (2002);
Weihsmann (1998);
Windisch-Hojnacki (1989);
Zukowsky (ed.) (1986, 1993, 1994);
Zukowsky et al. (eds.) (1987)

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"Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mies-van-der-rohe-ludwig

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), Germanborn American architect, was a leading exponent of the International Style. His "skin and bones" philosophy of architecture is summed up in his famous phrase "less is more."

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aachen on March 27, 1886. He attended the cathedral school until he was 13 years old and spent the next 2 years at a trade school. He had no formal architectural training but acted as a draftsman for a manufacturer of decorative stucco, and from 1905 to 1907 he was employed by Bruno Paul, the Berlin furniture designer.

In 1908 Mies joined Peter Behrens (the employer of Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius), who was one of several enlightened German architects attempting to link the ideals of the British Arts and Crafts movement, as propagated in Germany by Hermann Muthesius, to machine production. Behrens designed buildings and products for the German electrical industry AEG but also reverted to the esthetics, concepts, and architectural expression of the early-19th-century neoclassicist Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Thus it is not surprising that Mies's early domestic architecture, notably the Perls House (1911) at Zehlendorf near Berlin, with its hipped roof and axial plan, could have been designed by Behrens, or even by Schinkel a hundred years earlier. Mies supervised the construction of the German Embassy in St. Petersburg before leaving Behrens's office in 1912.

Early Work

During 1910 and 1911 Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural projects were published by Ernst Wasmuth of Berlin. Mies acknowledged his debt to Wright ("The encounter [of Wright] was destined to prove of great significance to the European development."), but he was also strongly influenced after World War I by the de Stijl movement of Theo van Doesburg and Gerrit Rietveld. This Dutch movement had developed from the cubistderived tradition of painters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Mies's brick country house project (1923) and his brick monument to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg (1926; destroyed) in Berlin were essays in the de Stijl idiom. Even the plan of the German Pavilion (1929; destroyed) at the International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain, had the geometry of a de Stijl painting. The travertine podium, chrome-plated steel structural columns, green marble dividers, and gray glass of the pavilion, as well as the reflecting pool with a sculpture by George Kolbe and the famed Barcelona chair, stool, and table by Mies, gave the building a timeless quality of inexorable perfection.

Mies also designed the furniture for some of his other buildings, such as the tubular dining and lounge chairs for the second Deutscher Werkbund Exposition of 1927 in Stuttgart. He was director of this exposition and broad-mindedly invited Behrens, Le Corbusier, Gropius, J. J. P. Oud, Bruno Taut, Hans Poelzig, and others to contribute. "I have refrained," said Mies, "from laying down a rigid program, in order to leave each individual as free as possible to carry out his ideas." His own contribution was a row of apartments, steel-framed, finished in stucco, and with horizontal bands of windows.

In 1930 Mies designed the Tugendhat House at Brno, Czechoslovakia—a house evolved from the Barcelona pavilion—and for it he created the Tugendhat chair and the Brno chair. That year he became director of the Bauhaus, the famed German school of art which revolutionized 20th-century design. The growing strength of Nazism in Germany during the early 1930s forced the Bauhaus to move from Dessau to Berlin. Mies closed the school in 1933 but stayed on in Germany, trying to effect a change in the country's politics.

The American Years

Forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1937, Mies went to the United States; he became an American citizen in 1944. His work, and that of other modern architects, had been introduced to the American architectural scene by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock in an exhibition held in 1932 at New York City's Museum of Modern Art and in its catalog, The International Style: Architecture since 1922.

Mies's philosophy of architecture, which was to dominate his designs in the United States, was exemplified in his revolutionary projects of 1919 and 1920-1921 for glass skyscrapers in Berlin. They were to be "new forms from the very nature of new problems." His 1922 project for a reinforced-concrete office building epitomized all the ideals of the International Style; volume rather than mass, simplicity of surface treatment with no ornamentation, and horizontal emphasis (except in tall structures). Mies stated, "Reinforced concrete structures are skeletons by nature. No gingerbread. No fortress. Columns and girders eliminate bearing walls. This is skin and bones construction."

In 1938 Mies became director of architecture of the Illinois Institute of Technology (formerly the Armour Institute), an office he held until he resumed private practice in 1958. In his brief inaugural address he stated that "true education is concerned not only with practical goals but also with values…. Education must lead us from irresponsible opinion to true responsible judgment…." He ended by quoting St. Augustine: "Beauty is the splendor of Truth."

A grid of 24-foot squares was the basis of Mies's Illinois Institute of Technology campus plan (1939-1940). Vincent Scully (1961) described it as a veritable "Renaissance townscape … conceived … upon a modular system of fixed perspectives" and compared it to a streetscape by the mannerist architect Giacomo da Vignola. The horizontal lines of perspective and the low vertical structural rhythm are common to both Renaissance spaces. Mies considered Crown Hall (completed 1956) on the campus, which houses the School of Architecture and Design, with its main floor an undivided space measuring 120 by 220 feet, his finest creation.

Particularly noteworthy among the residences and apartments that Mies built in and near Chicago are the Farnsworth house (1950) in Plano, Ill., and the pair of glass-sheathed apartment towers (1949-1951) on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. He also designed Federal Center (1964), a three-building complex in the heart of Chicago's commercial area. In New York City he collaborated with Philip Johnson on the Seagram Building (1956-1958), a 38-story tower of gray and bronze glass, which was the ultimate realization of Mies's 1919 project for a glass-walled sky-scraper. He died in Chicago on Aug. 18, 1969.

Mies, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier are the paternal triumvirate of 20th-century architecture. Mies's Werkbund apartment block of 1927 was a low-cost housing project of high-caliber design that has rarely been equaled even in the 1960s and early 1970s, when architects were desperately trying to solve the pressing need of well-designed housing. His Barcelona pavilion of 1929 was an esthetic contribution to 20th-century spatial design, comparable to Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie house and Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye.

Further Reading

A selection of drawings by Mies van der Rohe from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art is in Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Drawings (1969). Biographies include Philip C. Johnson, Mies van der Rohe (1947; rev. ed. 1953); Ludwig Hilberseimer, Mies van der Rohe (1956); and Arthur Drexler, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1960). Mies van der Rohe is discussed in Peter Blake, The Master Builders (1960; rev. ed. 1963); Vincent Scully, Modern Architecture (1961); and John Jacobus, Twentieth-century Architecture: The Middle Years, 1940-65 (1966). □

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Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (lōōt´vĬkh mē´ĕs vän dĕr rō´ə), 1886–1969, German-American architect. A pioneer of modern architecture and one of its most influential figures, he is famous for his minimalist architectural dictum "less is more." In Germany, he was an assistant to Peter Behrens. Mies's 1921 design for an all-glass skyscraper attracted international attention, and he went on to create several such projects, none of them actually constructed. He directed the seminal 1927 Werkbund Housing Exposition at Stuttgart. His German Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exposition (1929; recently reerected) was heralded for its sumptuous materials, asymmetrical plan, and complex interpenetration of exterior and interior spaces. Mies was appointed director of the Bauhaus at Dessau (1930).

He left Germany in 1937 for the United States, where, from 1938 until his retirement in 1958, he headed the department of architecture at Chicago's Armour Institute (now the Illinois Institute of Technology), teaching and putting into practice the Bauhaus aesthetic that fused art with technology. There he planned the new campus and designed (1942–58) several of its buildings, notably the superb Crown Hall (1956), home of the architectecture department. During this period he also created some private homes, including the outstanding 1951 Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill., now a state museum. In the 860 Lake Shore Drive apartments in Chicago (1949–51), the Seagram Building in New York (with Philip Johnson; 1956–58), and other buildings, Mies incorporated the principles of the glass skyscraper with a surface expression of steel-frame construction. In doing so he helped create a style that dominated the American urban modernist idiom, but with a perfectionism rarely matched by any other architect. He also experimented with buildings of a single great space, such as the New National Gallery in Berlin (1962–68).

See his works ed. by M. Pawley (1970); biographies by F. Schulze (1985, rev. ed. 2012) and Y. E. Safran (2000); studies by P. Johnson (1953), A. Drexler (1960), P. Blake (1964 and 1996), P. Carter (1974), W. Tegethoff (1980), J. Zukowsky, ed. (1986), E. S. Hochman (1989 and 1990), W. Blaser (rev. ed. 1997), E. Stoller (1999), R. Daza (2000), and P. Lambert, ed. (2001).

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Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig

Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig (1886–1969) US architect and designer, b. Germany. A leading exponent of modernism and the International style, Mies was the last director (1930–33) of the Bauhaus, moving the school to Berlin before it was closed by the Nazis. In 1938, he emigrated to the USA, becoming director of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. Principally using glass and steel, he developed the most coherent plastic system of pure modernism. His technological, rationalist aesthetic influenced a new generation of architects, such as Gordon Bunshaft, Eero Saarinen and Philip Johnson. Buildings include Alumni Memorial Hall, Chicago (1944–46), and Seagram Building, New York (1954–58).

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van der Rohe, Ludwig Mies

van der Rohe, Ludwig Mies (1886–1969). See Mies.

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