Mies

Mies with a model of his masterpiece, the Crown Hall on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Architecture in Chicago, USA

Lludwig Mies van der Rohe, “Mies” as he was commonly referred to, would have been 128 years old today. He was born as Ludwig Mies in Aachen, Germany in 1886  but moved to the USA in 1937.  He was one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture, along with Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Mies wanted to define a new, twentieth-century architectural style, just like the Classical or Gothic styles did for their own eras. He created a new way of designing, making use of modern materials such as steel and glass. Using these materials made it possible to create structures with minimal frameworks, creating an illusion of freedom and free-flowing spaces. “Skin and bones” architecture, as he referred to it himself. It is only logical that he was the man who came up with famous quotes like “Less is More” and “God is in the Details”.

God is in the Details

Amazingly, Mies  had no formal architectural training. Born in a trade-family (his father had a stone-carving shop) he only went to cathedral school until his 13th year, after which he started working in his father’s shop. From 1905 to 1907 he was employed by Bruno Paul, a Berlin furniture designer. But in 1908 he started as an apprentice in the design studio of famous German architect Peter Behrens. Here, Mies was exposed to new design theories and progressive German culture and it was here that Mies worked alongside Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. His talent was quickly recognised and Mies was soon doing independent commissions for the Berlin cultural elite. It was at this time that he added “van der” and “Rohe” (his mother’s name) to his given name, probably to fit in in this new world.

In 1912 Mies started his own office in Berlin and through his residential architectural projects, combined with furniture design, he gained more and more recognition as a leader of the German modern movement. It was therefore that he was selected to design the German Pavillion for the Barcelona Industrial Exposition in 1929. It was for this Pavillion that Mies created the now iconic Barcelona Chair and Ottoman to offer the Spanish king and queen a place to rest (but in fact they never sat on them). The design was based on ancient Roman folding chairs, used by the Roman aristocracy in the times of Julius Ceasar.

The Barcelona Pavillion, completed in 1929 for the Barcelona Industrial Exposition

The Barcelona Pavillion, completed in 1929 for the Barcelona Industrial Exposition

Mies van der Rohe Pavillion Chair, more known as the Barcelona chair (because Mies designed the chair for the German Pavillion at the International Art Exposition in Barcelona, via Pinterest

Mies van der Rohe Pavillion Chair, more known as the Barcelona chair (because Mies designed the chair for the German Pavillion at the International Art Exposition in Barcelona, via Pinterest

Mies became the director of the avantgarde Bauhaus design movement , from 1930 until it was forcefully shut down in 1933 by Hitler’s Nazi’s as they rejected this modern style as “not German” in character(!). Five years later Mies emigrated to the United States where he accepted a position as the Head of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (ITT) in Chicago. One of the perks of this new job was that he was commissioned to design the new campus, of which all buildings still exist, including his masterpiece, the S.R. Crown Hall, considered to be the definition of “Miesian” architecture. Well, the rest is history, as the following impression of his work  will show.

The S.R. Crown Hall at the Illinois Insitute of Architecture, completed in 1956

The S.R. Crown Hall at the Illinois Insitute of Architecture, completed in 1956

The Farnsworth House, created by Mies for his supposed lover Edith Farnsworth, completed in 1951

The Farnsworth House, created by Mies for his supposed lover Edith Farnsworth, completed in 1951

The Seagram Building, created for Canadian distillers Seagram and Sons on Fifth Avenue, NY. Completed in 1958 and now home to, amonst others, The Four Seasons restaurant

The Seagram Building, created for Canadian distillers Seagram and Sons on Fifth Avenue, NY. Completed in 1958 and now home to, amongst others, The Four Seasons restaurant

A white Brno chair together with the Saarinen Tulip table, the offspring of two great minds

A white Brno chair paired with the Saarinen Tulip table, the offspring of two great minds

Created by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the German Pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona Exposition, the Barcelona couch features the hand-buffed frame and hand-pieced leather work.

Created by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the German Pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona Exposition, the Barcelona couch features the hand-buffed frame and hand-pieced leather work.

Great combination of Miesian modernism combined with classic Renaissance panelling and stucco

Great combination of Miesian modernism combined with classic Renaissance panelling and stucco

I love this whole, very Miesian setting, the furniture, the bare to the bones structure of the house and then that amazing view

I love this whole, very “Miesian” setting, the furniture, the bare to the bones structure of the house and then that amazing view

Inside Farnsworth House

Inside Farnsworth House

Lovely white Barcelona chair with a Louis Poulsen lamp at its side

Lovely white Barcelona chair with a Louis Poulsen lamp at its side

Mies van der Rohe Cane Cantilever chairs, designed in 1928,  via Habitually Chic

Mies van der Rohe Cane Cantilever chairs, designed in 1928, via Habitually Chic

Mies van der Rohe Pavillion Chair in black, more known as the Barcelona chair via Pinterest

Mies van der Rohe Pavillion Chair in black, more known as the Barcelona chair via Pinterest

Photo by Idha Lindhag via Habitually Chic

Photo by Idha Lindhag via Habitually Chic

The Brno chair with flat frame and a modern, pink, twist

The Brno chair with flat frame and a modern, pink, twist

The Brno chair, designed by Mies in 1930 for his Tugendhat House in Brno, Czech Republic

The Brno chair, designed by Mies in 1930 for his Tugendhat House in Brno, Czech Republic

The MR Chaise, designed in 1929 by Mies van der Rohe

The MR Chaise, designed in 1929 by Mies van der Rohe

The MR Lounge Chair, designed in 1927 by Mies

The MR Lounge Chair, designed in 1927 by Mies

Cantilever chair - via Apartment Therapy

Cantilever chair – via Apartment Therapy

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