ludwieg mies van der rohe (1886-1969)

was born in aachen, germany, on march 27, 1886. after having trained with his father, a master stonemason. at 19 he moved to berlin, where he worked for bruno paul,the art nouveau architect and furniture designer. at 20 he received his first independent commission,to plan a house for a philosopher (alois riehl).

in 1908 he began working for the architect peter behrens. he studied the architecture of the prussian karl friedrich schinkel and frank lloyd wright.he opened his own office in berlin in 1912,and married in 1913.

after world war I, he began studying the skyscraper and designed two innovative steel-framed towers encased in glass. one of them was the friedrichstrasse skyscraper, designed in 1921 for a competition. it was never built, although it drew critical praise and foreshadowed his skyscraper designs of the late 40s and 50s.

in 1921, when his marriage ended, he changed his name, adding the dutch ‘van der’ and his mother’s maiden name, ‘rohe’: ludwig mies became ludwig mies van der rohe.

in the 20’s he was active in a number of the berlin avant-garde circles ( the magazine ‘G’ and organizations such as the ‘novembergruppe’, ‘zehner ring’, and ‘arbeitsrat für kunst’)that supported modern art and architecture along with artists like hans richter, el lissitzky, and theo van doesburg,
among others. major contributions to the architectural philosophies of the late 1920s and 1930s he made as artistic director of the werkbund-sponsored weissenhof project, a model housing colony in stuttgart. the modern apartments and houses were designed by leading european architects,including a block by mies.

in 1927 he designed one of his most famous buildings, / the german pavilion at the international exposition in barcelona in 1929. this small hall, known as the barcelona pavilion (for which he also designed the famous chrome
and leather ‘barcelona chair’), had a flat roof supported by columns. the pavilion’s internal walls, made of glass and marble, could be moved around as they did not support the structure.the concept of fluid space with a seamless flow between indoors and outdoors was further explored in other projects he designed for decades to come. mies began working with lilly reich, who remained his collaborator and companion for more than ten years.

he was director of the bauhaus school from 1930 until its disbandment in 1933, shut down under pressure from the new nazi government. he moved to the united states in 1937. from 1938 to 1958 he was head of the architecture department at the armour institute of technology in chicago, later renamed the illinois institute of technology.
in the 40s, was asked to design a new campus for the school, a project in which he continued to refine his steel-and-glass style. he had also formed a new relationship with chicago artist lora marx that would last for the rest of his life.

by 1944, he had become an american citizen and was well established professionally. in this period he designed one of his most famous
buildings, a small weekend retreat outside chicago,a transparent box framed by eight exterior steel columns. / the ‘farnsworth house’ is one of the most
radically minimalist houses ever designed. its interior, a single room, is subdivided by partitions and completely enclosed in glass.

in the 50s he continued to develop this concept of open, flexible space on a much larger scale: in 1953, he developed the convention hall, innovative was
the structural system that spanned large distances.during this period he also realized his dream of building a glass skyscraper./ the ‘ twin towers’ in chicago were completed in 1951, followed by other high-rises in chicago, new york, detroit, toronto…culminating in 1954 with / the ‘seagram’ building in new york, hailed as a masterpiece of skyscraper design.

for his career he achieved in 1959 the ‘orden pour le merite’ (germany) and in 1963 the ‘presidential medal of freedom’ (USA).

in 1962, his career came full-circle when he was invited to design the ‘new national gallery’ in berlin. his design for this building achieved his long-held vision of an exposed steel structure that directly connected interior space to the landscape. he returned to berlin several times while the gallery was under construction, but was unable to attend the opening in 1968.he died in chicago on august 17, 1969.


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