One of the most influential architects of the 20th century, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe rejected an academic education. He learnt his craft in the office of Peter Behrens-one of his fellow-students there being Le Corbusier.
Office buildings and exhibition pavilions, factories and museums, private houses and libraries … in the six decades of his career, Mies van der Rohe continually discovered new challenges, whether in Berlin, Chicago, New York or Stuttgart..
“Jerusalem” in Stuttgart
True to his motto that “only today can be given form,” in 1927 he took over the artistic direction of the Weissenhof Settlement in Stuttgart. Nothing less was presented there than the future of building, on the occasion of the exhibition Die Wohnung. The principles Mies van der Rohe and 16 other architects had adopted were made clear by this “model settlement”: the 21 houses, containing 63 apartments under flat roofs, were bare of decoration.
The enthusiasm of public and press was muted, and even their fellow architects were critical: “In multifarious horizontal terraces, uninhabitably crowded together, a heaping of low-lying cubes throngs up a hillside, reminiscent rather of a suburb of Jerusalem than of apartments for Stuttgart… an Arab village.”
In 1929 he created for the Spanish port of Barcelona an exhibition pavilion that demonstrated his continuing development of Bauhaus architecture. Here architecture has been reduced to absolute basics: a few plain walls and a large, flat roof. The freestanding steel pillars and the stone walls are mirrored in two pools of water, while interior and exterior space are linked rather than separated by large areas of glass.
Rectangular forms, flat roofs, transparency-the architect continued to be true to his clear, rationalistic building concepts. In 1938 he emigrated to the United States. There, together with Herbert Green-wald, he created large residential high-rise complexes, such as the apartment houses on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Reduced to a structural skeleton, these buildings are pure steel constructions, with extensively glazed facades. As early as 1923 the Berlin-born Mies had clarified his views on modern office architecture: “The materials are concrete, iron, glass.
Reinforced concrete buildings are skeleton buildings by their nature. Neither pastry nor armored tanks.” The Seagram Building, completed in 1958 on New York’s Park Avenue, the architect’s first office high-rise, also speaks volumes in this respect. Mies van der Rohe’s office towers at the same time fit harmoniously into the urban space that surrounds them—the glass fronts of the lower stories merge seamlessly into the squares around them.
Major works of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
– Toronto-Dominion Centre – Office Tower Complex, Toronto
– Westmount Square – Office & Residential Tower Complex, Westmount
– Nuns’ Island – 3 Residential towers and a filling station (closed), Montreal (c.1969)
– Tugendhat House – Residential Home, Brno
– Riehl House – Residential Home, Potsdam (1907)
– Perl House – Residential Home, Zehlendorf (1911)
– Werner House – Residential Home, Zehlendorf (1913)
– Urbig House – Residential Home, Potsdam (1917)
– Kempner House – Residential Home, Charlottenburg (1922)
– Eichstaedt House – Residential Home, Wannsee (1922)
– Feldmann House – Residential Home, Wilmersdorf (1922)
– Mosler House – Residential Home, Babelsberg (1926)
– Weissenhof Estate – Housing Exhibition coordinated by Mies and with a contribution by him, Stuttgart (1927)
– Lemke House – Residential Home, Weissensee (1932)
– Haus Lange/Haus Ester – Residential Home and an art museum, Krefeld
– New National Gallery – Modern Art Museum, Berlin
– Bacardi Office Building – Office Building, Mexico City
– Barcelona Pavilion – World’s Fair Pavilion, Barcelona
– Cullinan Hall – Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
– The Promontory Apartments – Residential Apartment Complex, Chicago
– Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library – District of Columbia Public Library, Washington, DC
– Richard King Mellon Hall of Science – Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA (1968)
– IBM Plaza – Office Tower, Chicago
– Meredith Hall – College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Drake University, Des Moines, IA
– Lake Shore Drive Apartments – Residential Apartment Towers, Chicago
– Seagram Building – Office Tower, New York City (1958)
– Crown Hall – College of Architecture, and other buildings, at the Illinois Institute of Technology (1956)
– University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration – Chicago, IL (1965)
– Farnsworth House – Residential Home, Plano, Illinois (1946)
– Chicago Federal Center
– Dirksen Federal Building – Office Tower, Chicago
– Kluczynski Federal Building – Office Tower, Chicago
– United States Post Office Loop Station – General Post Office, Chicago
– One Illinois Center – Office Tower, Chicago
– One Charles Center – Office Tower, Baltimore, Maryland
– Highfield House Condominium | 4000 North Charles – Condominium Apartments, Baltimore, Maryland
– Colonnade and Pavilion Apartments – Residential Apartment Complex, Newark, New Jersey (1959)
– Lafayette Park – Residential Apartment Complex, Detroit, Michigan (1963).
– Commonwealth Promenade Apartments – Residential Apartment Complex, Chicago (1957)
– Caroline Weiss Law Building, Cullinan Hall (1958) and Brown Pavilion (1974) additions, Museum of Fine Art, Houston
– Richard King Mellon Building (1968) at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh
– American Life Building – Louisville, Kentucky (1973; completed after Mies’s death by Bruno Conterato)