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MIES VAN DER ROHE

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CONTENT 01 LEGACY

02 PROJECTS

03 DRAWINGS


THE SEAGRAM BUILDING 1954-1958


VAN DER ROHE THE MAN, THE LEGACY

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LEGACY LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE 1886-1969 A german-born architect and educator, is widely acknowledged as one of the 20th century’s greatest architects. He sought a rational approach that would guide the creative process of architectural design. By emphasizing open space and revealing the industrial materials used in construction, he helped define modern architecture.


Born in Aachen, Germany, Mies spent the first half of his career in his native country. His early work was mainly residential, and he received his first independent commission, the Riehl House, when he was only 20 years old. Mies quickly became a leading figure in the avant-garde life of Berlin and was widely respected in Europe for his innovative structures, including the Barcelona Pavilion. In 1930, he was named director of the Bauhaus, the renowned German school of experimental art and design, which he led until 1933 when he closed the school under pressure from the Nazi Regime. When Mies arrived in 1938, he insisted on a back-to-basics approach to education: Architecture students must first learn to draw, then gain thorough knowledge of the features and use of the builder’s materials, and finally master the fundamental principles of design and construction. During these early years, Mies held classes in space provided by the Art Institute of Chicago. Mies’ second task was to expand the south side campus.


In 1940, Armour Institute and Lewis Institute merged to form Illinois Institute of Technology. Armour Insitute’s original seven acres could not accommodate the combined schools’ needs, and Mies was encouraged to develop plans for a newly expanded 120-acre campus. But the individuality comes as the expression of one man’s unique combination of faith and honesty and devotion and belief in architecture.” After 20 years as the director of architecture at IIT, Mies resigned in 1958 at the age of 72. Whether or not you agree with Mies’ assertation that less is more, his contribution to the modern urban landscape cannot be overlooked. Mies’ architecture has been described as being expressive of the industrial age in the same way that Gothic was expressive of the age of ecclesiasticism. In 1956, famed architect Eero Saarinen spoke at the dedication of Mies’ masterwork, S.R. Crown Hall, and lauded him as Chicago’s third great artist, placing Mies in the prestigious lineage of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. “Great architecture is both universal and individual,” Saarinen said at the dedication, “The universality comes because there is an architecture expressive of its time.


MIES ARCHITECTURE HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS BEING

EXPRESSIVE OF THE INDUSTRIAL AGE


ILLINOIS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 1939-1958


PROJECTS BARCELONA PAVILION SPAIN TUGENDHAT HOUSE CZECH REPUBLIC FARNSWORTH HOUSE ILLINOIS THE SEAGRAM BUILDING NEW YORK CITY LAFAYETTE PARK DETROIT

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THE BARCELONA PAVILION BARCELONA, SPAIN Mies built the German (or Barcelona) Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exposition of 1929. It housed the ceremonial reception space for German industrial exhibits commissioned by the German government.

Mies united sophisticated materials with a fluid open plan, which together endowed the space with an unprecedented modern elegance.


Situated at the foot of the National Art Museum of Catalonia and Montjuic, the Barcelona Pavilion resides on a narrow site in a quiet tucked away corner secluded from the bustling city streets.


Raised on a plinth of travertine, the Barcelona Pavilion separates itself from it context create atmospheric and experiential effects that seem to occur in a vacuum that dissolves all consciousness of the surrounding city. The pavilion’s design is based on a formulaic grid system developed by Mies that not only serves as the patterning of the travertine pavers, but it also serves as an underlying framework that the wall systems work within. Originally named the German Pavilion, the pavilion was the face of Germany after WWI, emulating the nation’s progressively modern culture that was still rooted in its classical history. Its elegant and sleek design combined with rich natural material presented Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion as a bridge into his future career, as well as architectural modernism. After several architectural triumphs in Germany, Mies was commissioned to design the German Pavilion for the International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain. The pavilion was intended to be the face of the German section that would host King Alphonso XIII of Spain and German officials at the inauguration of the exposition.


THE PAVILION MESHES THE

MAN-MADE AND THE NATURAL

EMPLOYING FOUR TYPES OF MARBLE, STEEL, CHROME, AND GLASS.


Unlike other pavilions at the exposition, Mies understood his pavilion simply as a building and nothing more, it would not house art or sculpture rather the pavilion would be a place of tranquility and escape from the exposition, in effect transforming the pavilion into an inhabitable sculpture. Raised on a plinth of travertine, the Barcelona Pavilion separates itself from it context create atmospheric and experiential effects that seem to occur in a vacuum that dissolves all consciousness of the surrounding city.


TUGENDHAT HOUSE BRNO, CZECH REPUBLIC The Tugendhat House occupies a graded site overlooking a broad valley, with a magnificent view of the city of Brno and the old Spielberg Castle.

The house was designed as a large and luxurious villa for Grete and Fritz Tugendhat. This was the last major home Mies built in Europe.


Mies dealt with the extreme slope by dividing the front and back of the house into public and private facades. Facing the street, the building is only one story, but it’s two stories on the garden side. The free-standing three-story villa is on a slope and faces the south-west. The second story (the ground floor) consists of the main living and social areas with the conservatory and the terrace, and the kitchen and servants’ rooms. The third story (the first floor) has the main entrance from the street with a passage to the terrace, the entrance hall, and rooms for the parents, children and the nanny with appropriate facilities. The chauffeur’s flat with the garages and the terrace are accessed separately. Mies designed all the furniture in the house and chose precisely the placement of each piece and fixture. He used a revolutionary iron framework, which enabled him to dispense with supporting walls and arrange the interior in order to achieve a feeling of space and light.


The home’s decor boasted several of Mies finest pieces of original furniture, including the Brno chair, the Tugendhat chair, and the X coffee table. Mies specified all the furnishings, in collaboration with interior designer Lilly Reich.


THE DESIGN

PRINCIPLE, “LESS IS MORE” AND EMPHASIS ON FUNCTIONAL

AMENITIES CREATED A FINE EXAMPLE OF EARLY FUNCTIONALISM ARCHITECTURE.


One wall is a sliding sheet of plate glass that descends to the basement the way an automobile window does. There were no paintings or decorative items in the villa, but the interior was by no means austere due to the use of naturally patterned materials such as the captivating onyx wall and rare tropical woods. The onyx wall is partially translucent and changes appearance when the evening sun is low. The architect managed to make the magnificent view from the villa an integral part of the interior.


FARNSWORTH HOUSE PLANO, ILLINOIS The Farnsworth House, built between 1945 and 1951 for Dr. Edith Farnsworth as a weekend retreat. Just right outside of Chicago in a 10-acre secluded wooded site with the Fox River to the south, the glass pavilion takes full advantage of relating to its natural surroundings, achieving Mies’ concept of a strong relationship between the house and nature.


Mies stated on his achievement, “If you view nature through the glass walls of the Farnsworth House, it gains a more profound significance than if viewed from the outside. That way more is said about nature — it becomes part of a larger whole.”


The single-story house consists of eight I-shaped steel columns that support the roof and floor frameworks, and therefore are both structural and expressive. In between these columns are floor-to-ceiling windows around the entire house, opening up the rooms to the woods around it. The windows are what provide the beauty of Mies’ idea of tying the residence with its tranquil surroundings. His idea for shading and privacy was through the many trees that were located on the private site. Mies explained this concept in an interview about the glass pavilion stating, “Nature, too, shall live its own life. We must beware not to disrupt it with the color of our houses and interior fittings. Yet we should attempt to bring nature, houses, and human beings together into a higher unity.� Mies intended for the house to be as light as possible on the land, and so he raised the house 5 feet 3 inches off the ground, allowing only the steel columns to meet the ground and the landscape to extend past the residence. In order to accomplish this, the mullions of the windows also provide structural support for the floor slab.


THE FARNSWORTH HOUSE WITH ITS CONTINUOUS GLASS WALLS IS AN EVEN SIMPLER INTERPRETATION OF AN IDEA. HERE THE PURITY OF THE CAGE IS UNDISTURBED.


The ground floor of the Farnsworth House is thereby elevated, and wide steps slowly transcend almost effortlessly off the ground, as if they were floating up to the entrance. Aside from walls in the center of the house enclosing bathrooms, the floor plan is completely open exploiting true minimalism. With the Farnsworth house constructed about 100 feet from the Fox River, Mies recognized the dangers of flooding. He designed the house at an elevation that he bellieved would protect it from the highest predicted floods.


THE SEAGRAM BUILDING NEW YORK, NEW YORK Located in the heart of New York City, the Seagram Building epitomizes elegance and the principles of modernism. The 38-story building on Park Avenue was Mies’ first attempt at tall office building construction. Mies’ solution set a standard for the modern skyscraper.


The building became a monumental continuity of bronze and dark glass climbing up 515 feet to the top of the tower, juxtaposing the large granite surface of the plaza below. Noted for it’s amber toned windows and public plaza, the Seagram is Mies’ largest work.

Mies’ response to the city with the Seagram Building was the grand gesture of setting back the building 100 feet from the street edge, which created a highly active open plaza. The plaza attracts users with its two large fountains surrounded by generous outdoor seating and open quarters.

By making this move, Mies distanced himself from New York urban morphology, lot line development, and the conventional economics of skyscraper construction. The plaza also created a procession to the entry of the building, providing the threshold that linked the city with the skyscraper.


With its use of modern materials and setback from the city grid, the building became a prototype for future office buildings as well as a model for many buildings erected in its surroundings throughout the New York skyline.


THE SEAGRAM

BUILDING BECAME A PROTOTYPE FOR FUTURE

OFFICE BUILDINGS DESIGNED BY MIES AS WELL AS A MODEL FOR MANY BUILDINGS ERECTED IN ITS SURROUNDINGS.


This threshold continues into the building as a horizontal plane in the plaza that cuts into the lobby. The lobby also has a white ceiling that stretches out over the entry doors further eroding the defined line between interior and exterior. The office spaces above the lobby, furnished by Philip Johnson, have flexible floor plans lit with luminous ceiling panels. These floors also get maximum natural lighting with the exterior being glass panes of gray topaz that provide floor-to-ceiling windows for the office spaces.


LAFAYETTE PARK DETROIT, MICHIGAN Lafayette Park, just northeast of downtown Detroit, is a 78-acre housing development designed and realized by Mies van der Rohe. The first urban renewal project in the United States, it was founded by developer Herb Greenwald to help keep the middle class in the city.


Alfred Caldwell, Mies’ longtime collaborator, did all landscape design on the project, and Ludwig Hilberseimer handled the urban design. The complex is a collection of one- and two- story townhomes, and a small neighborhood shopping center.


The buildings are planned along three roadways that enter the development from the west. Mies planned for Lafayette Park to embrace the automobile from the beginning—after all, Detroit is the Motor City. However, he does not show off the parking areas, instead sinking them about four feet below the level of the sidewalks and laws of the townhomes. A resident peering out of the floor-to-ceiling windows of his unit would scarcely be able to see them. Some of the land around the townhomes themselves is carefully left as green space to serve as a passive recreation area for the children who live there. The development is adjacent to a public elementary school, one of Detroit’s best, and Mies carefully designed the circulation of Lafayette Park to allow children to get from their townhome to school without having to cross a street. The townhomes are the most spectacular aspect of the development, and the most unique buildings in Mies’ oeuvre. Two-story townhomes are located on the north and south ends, with one-story courtyard townhomes in the center. The townhomes come in floor plans of two and three bedrooms, with an average size of 1400 square feet.


ONE OF THE FIRST

EXAMPLES OF URBAN RENEWAL, IT IS A TESTAMENT TO THE DEVELOPMENT’S DESIGN THAT IT REMAINS A VIBRANT NEIGHBORHOOD MORE THAN 50 YEARS AFTER ITS CONSTRUCTION.


In many ways, Lafayette Park exemplifies the modernist ideal of ‘towers in the park.’ The 22-story towers are complimented by smaller-scale housing forms and surrounded by a 13-acre green space known as The Plaisance. Though the neighborhood is relatively close to downtown, it exists as a community apart. The area exudes a sense of security and calm in a city currently considered the most dangerous in the U.S. Property values and occupancy rates remain comparatively high.


S.R. Crown Hall 1950-1956


DRAWINGS SELECT DRAWINGS BY MIES VAN DER ROHE

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Mies is widely renowned as a master builder, with his attention to detail and restrained proportions leading to masterful and surprisingly poetic structures. His maxims are quoted in schools: “God is in the details” and, of course, “Less is more.” It is fairly easy to tell that the collages are Mies’s work at a glance; their understatedness, their restrained yet powerful composition, draws the eye. Many of the collages are monochrome, largely made up of whitespace; line-drawn perspective grids delineate the plains of floor and ceiling, while two, or maybe three, partitions block views out of plate-glass windows.


It is fairly easy to tell that the collages are Mies’s work at a glance; their understatedness, their restrained yet powerful composition, draws the eye. Many of the collages are monochrome, largely made up of whitespace; line-drawn perspective grids delineate the plains of floor and ceiling, while two, or maybe three, partitions block views out of plate-glass windows. Many of these partitions are adorned with patterned marble or modernist paintings by Kandinsky or “Guernica” by Picasso. The culmination—Mies at his wildest—is a collage for a Chicago convention hall, in which the walls are a deep green marble decorated by state seals.


The Legacy of Mies  
The Legacy of Mies  
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