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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

German-American Architect and Designer

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Photo

Born: March 27, 1886 - Aachen, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire

Died: August 17, 1969 - Chicago, Illinois, USA

"Less is more."

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Signature

Summary of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

On November 20, 1938, the Armour Institute of Technology held a gala at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago to celebrate its new head of the architecture program. Introducing him was Frank Lloyd Wright, who admired virtually no other architect alive. But this occasion was different. Of the guest of honor, Wright intoned, "I admire him as an architect, respect and love him as a man. Armour Institute, I give you my Mies van der Rohe. You treat him well and love him as I do. He will reward you." Wright then promptly left the stage. The rarity of publicly receiving Wright's unqualified accolades underscores the brilliance of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his vaunted place within modern architecture as one of the founders of the International Style in Germany. Mies did not disappoint his new employers, either: over the next thirty years, he helped establish the International Style as the definitive architectural language of North American postwar modernism and influenced hundreds of emulators worldwide. His steel-and-glass aesthetic became the archetype of the term "modern architecture" for decades even after his death. Mies' buildings became the prime targets for postmodernists who later attacked the International Style.

Key Ideas

Along with Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, Mies helped pioneer the crystallization of the International Style as the core movement of modern architecture during the early 1920s. Unlike Le Corbusier and other early champions of the International Style who moved away from it, in part due to critiques of modern architecture in the 1960s, he remained completely devoted to the movement over the last four decades of his career.
Mies first called his designs for steel-and-glass skyscrapers and horizontally-oriented houses and pavilions "skin-and-bones" architecture due to their minimal uses of industrial materials, definition of space, along with the rigidity of structure, and their transparency. His architecture promotes the dissolution between interior and exterior and the negation of feeling completely enclosed. Instead, they encourage maximum flexibility in their spatial configurations, which for Mies meant that they maximized their spatial utility.
Mies' buildings often emphasize their own singularity relative to their surroundings, putting themselves - and through their transparency, their inhabitants - on view. This makes many of them, such as the Barcelona Pavilion, ideal for public functions, but it also makes some of them, such as the Farnsworth House, notoriously difficult to inhabit when privacy is needed.
Having grown up around his father's stonecutting shop, Mies was very sensitive to the choices of materials in his designs, including fine stone, chrome, bronze, and even brick. Many of his buildings, especially the Tugendhat House and Seagram Building, were extremely expensive structures to build and are noted equally for their fine craftsmanship along with their industrial methods of construction.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Photo

Maria Ludwig Michael Mies was born in the city of Aachen in western Germany, in the spring of 1886. Aachen, known in French as Aix-la-Chapelle, had been the capital of Charlemagne's Frankish Empire in the eighth and ninth centuries AD. By the time of Mies' birth almost 1100 years later, however, it had become one of the numerous centers of heavy industry in the Ruhr region of the Kingdom of Prussia, the dominant state in the Wilhelmine Empire before World War I.

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