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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe : architect biography

famous architect : Ludwig Mies van der Rohe [ page1 ] [page2]





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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

All of Mies van der Rohe's furniture designs, with the exception of some studies, occurred in his German period. He worked for many years with the interior designer Lilly Reich (1885-1947), but the designs bearing Mies 's name are considered his own. These pieces are well known because they were sold by Knoll Associates in the United States. Well-known pieces include the Barcelona chair (1929). MR chairs (1926), Tugendhat chair (1930), and Brno chair, couch, and coffee table (1930). Other pieces were simple tables based on the careful selection of materials rather than on new technology. In 1930, Gropius recommended Mies van der Rohe as successor to Hannes Meyer (1889-1954) as director of the Dessau Bauhaus. During that period Mies van der Rohe was also director of the Werkbund Section, "The Dwelling", of the Berlin Building Exposition of 1931. In that year Mies van der Rohe was made a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts and Sciences. When the Dessau Bauhaus was closed by the Nazis, Mies van der Rohe moved it to Berlin in 1933, but again the Nazis closed the school; the faculty dispersed on August 10 of that year.

In 1937, Mies van der Rohe made his first trip to the United States, followed in 1938 by his immigration there. Mies van der Rohe was appointed Director of Architecture at the Armour Institute in Chicago (since 1940, the Illinois Institute of Technology). In 1944 Mies van der Rohe became a U.S. citizen.

With the establishment of a new campus for the Illinois Institute of Technology, Mies van der Rohe had the opportunity to plan the campus as well as several of the buildings. The first structures, started under wartime conditions, were variations on steel-framed one- to three-story buildings with brick end glass. The care in detailing intersections and corners gives the buildings distinction. The simplicity the chapel (1952) is noteworthy, as is the last of the buldings designed by Mies van der Rohe for the campus. Crown Hall (1950-1956). The latter building is an enormous room, 120 x 220 ft in plan, 18 ft high without interior columns, used for the architectural school. The building is raised several feet above the ground to allow light for the belowgrade School of Design. The most interesting point is the structural solution of exposed structural beams above the roof, making dear the method of achieving the clear-span interior. Mies van der Rohe ended his relationship with the school in 1958.

Dr. Edith Farnsworth commissioned a house from Mies van der Rohe in 1946 for weekend and vacation use, on the Fox River, Plano, Illinois. The house is a simple glass pavilion on a raised platform; the exterior columns make the roof and platform appear to float above the site. Construction started in 1949. Before completion, Dr. Farnsworth brought a lawsuit against Mies van der Rohe that was settled in Mies 's favor. This experience may have contributed to the fact that Mies van der Rohe concentrated on large building types after this.

related links

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - at vitruvio.ch
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - Villa Tugendhat - official site

The 26-story 860-880 Lake Shore Apartments in Chicago (1948-1951) were an important advance in high-rise design. Based on a 21-ft bay, the structural cage is clearly expressed, with spaces between structural members in glass. At the ground level, service and lobby areas are set in from the columns, providing covered walk areas. For appearance, I-beams were welded to columns and mullions. This use of steel for decorative use was an aesthetic decision. White draperies against the glass gave a uniform appearance, with the possibility of interior draperies for individual selection. The buildings continue to look well, better than most buildings of their age. There has been extensive published commentary on these and other apartment towers designed by Mies van der Rohe.

In 1953, Mies van der Rohe introduced Gropius at a fete marking the latter*s seventieth birthday, tracing their long association, and lauding Gropius's contributions.

The Seagram building on Park Avenue in New York City (1954-1958) was set back 90 feet from Park Avenue and 35 feet from the side streets. It rises in a simple shaft to 39 stories. More space could have been built on the site under zoning laws, but the client agreed to the reduction in floor space. Lower structures behind the tower close off the center of the block. The plaza on Park Avenue, raised from the street, consists of simple stone paving flanked by pools. The walls are a bronze curtain wall, and the finish throughout was carefully designed by Mies van der Rohe. The building has landmark status.

The Toronto Dominion Centre is related in concept to the Federal Center in Chicago and Westmount Square in Montreal. Mies van der Rohe most carefully considered the design of the Toronto project; the other two were carried out by his office under his direction. Asymmetrical groupings of towers on a plaza, the buildings have remarkable similarities despite variations in function. This prototype approach was congenial to Mies van der Rohe, and in Chicago it was played off with the one-story post office pavilion. The clarity of detail and care in design of the walls make these typically Miesian buildings fit their urban settings well. In the Canadian projects, the underground shops, parking, and ties to transportation systems (in Montreal) were important urban considerations.

The New National Gallery for Berlin (completed 1968) was a late work, derived in concept from earlier studies for museums and the Bacardi office building project in Cuba, never built. The roof structure and supports are the essence of the building. Exterior columns were carefully designed, standing in front of an all-glass wall. The entire roof was raised in one operation, high enough for the columns to be placed on their foundations; the roof was then lowered onto pin connections. The immensity of the enclosed space has made it a difficult space for art. It is more an expression of Mies 's aesthetic, and is its own exhibition.

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Mies van der Rohe was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1959, the AIA Gold Medal in 1960, and the J. Lloyd Kimbrough Medal in 1961. Mies van der Rohe was the first architect to receive the American Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1963. Mies van der Rohe was the recipient of prizes from the city of Munich and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and from the Bund Deutscher Architekten in 1966. After a long illness, Mies van der Rohe died in Chicago on August 17,1969, at the age of 83, only a month after the death of Walter Gropius.

One of the great masters of early twentieth-century architecture along with Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe made a major impact on the look of U.S. cities. His wide acceptance by corporate America brought him more important commissions than Mies van der Rohe had received in Germany in his earlier days.

His elegant curtain walls were widely adapted by others using less expensive construction, giving rise to the glib phrase "less is a bore." Mies van der Rohe has been criticized because his buildings, although appearing machine-made, were in large part built by hand. Mies van der Rohe was accused of paying small attention to functional demands, such as ignoring excessive solar gain through glass walls. Mies van der Rohe was also described as insensitive to neighboring structures and to environmental concerns. Critics have claimed that his best work was the design of undifferentiated spaces such as lobbies, convention halls, or open office floors.

What is likely to be his lasting impact was Mies 's concern with theoretical concepts, clarity of image, careful attention to detail, and lightness of proportion. These architectural concepts will survive.

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