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THE HISTORY OF

LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE

MARK KARAM


THE HISTORY OF

LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE


CONTENTS

SECTION ONE

THE BIOGRAPHY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE 2

SECTION TWO

THE STRUCTURES OF MIES VAN DER ROHE 5

BARCELONA PAVILION 6

THE FARNSWORTH HOUSE 7

SEAGRAM BUILDING 8

SECTION THREE

THE FURNITURE OF MIES VAN DER ROHE 9

THE BARCELONA CHAIR 10

THE BRNO CHAIR 10

THE TUGENDHAT CHAIR 11

OTHER PIECES 11

SECTION THREE

THE BIBLIOGRAPHY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE 12

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SECTION ONE

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THE HISTORY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE

BIOGRAPHY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE


BIOGRAPHY

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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (March 27, 1886 – August 17, 1969) was a German-American architect. His peers, students, and others best knew him by Mies. Along with Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe was seen as one of the greatest modern architects of all time. Like many, Mies wanted to create a new architectural style of design after World War I. He created very modern architectural designs that were extremely clear and simple. His mind set on design was simple, and sleek; using materials like steal and plate glass to separate interior spaces he achieved exactly that. His main goal was minimalistic design in the framework and creates a free-flowing open space with the approach of “less is more”. Mies’ father owned a stone-carving shop, this is where Mies worked for a while along with several other design firms before he moved to Berlin. When Mies went to Berlin he joined the office of interior designer of Bruno Paul. “He began his architectural career as an apprentice at the studio of Peter Behrens from 1908 to 1912, where he was exposed to the current design theories and to progressive German culture, working alongside Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier” 1. Under Peter Behrans, Mies worked as a construction manager at the site of the Embassy of the Germany Empire. Mies did not have a college-level education, but despite the fact, he began his own independent commissions due to his talents being so recognized. Ludwig Mies later changed his name after proclaiming that he used to simply work under his father at a stone carving shop, to now working with Berlins finest; he added “van der Rohe” to his name, which is his mother’s last name. Mies began his independent career by designing upper class German homes. “In the early 1930s, Mies served briefly as the last Director of the faltering Bauhaus, at the request of his colleague and competitor Walter Gropius”2. 1. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Mies_van_der_ Rohe#Significance_and_meaning (Oct 8, 2010). 2. Essential Architecture - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe , http://www.essential-architecture.com/ARCHITECT/ARCH-rohe.htm (Oct 10, 2010).


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BIOGRAPHY

THE HISTORY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE

Mies had a government-financed school that was forcefully shut down by Nazi political powers in 1933. The Nazis, due to it not being “German in character”, rejected his style. Aggravated and unhappy, he left his homeland unwillingly in 1937 as he saw his chances of continuing his building career diminish in Germany. Accepting a residential contract in Wyoming and then an offer to head the department of architecture of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Later known as Second School of Chicago, Mies introduced a new kind of education to the city that later on grew to be very influential in the many years to come in North America and Europe. Mies settled in Chicago, Illinois where he was appointed as head of the architecture school at Chicago’s Armour Institute of Technology. Part of the job in this position is being commissioned to design all the new buildings and the general master plan of the campus. All his buildings still stand there. “Crown Hall is widely regarded as Mies’ finest work, the definition of Miesian architecture”3. In 1944, he became an American citizen. In the 30 years he was an American Architect, it was clear to see his style as pure and sleek. His man focus was enclosing largely open spaces with clearly arranged dividers using pre-manufactured steel shapes encasing large sheets of glass. “His architecture, with origins in the German Bauhaus and western European International Style became an accepted mode of building for American cultural and educational institutions, developers, public agencies, and large corporations”4.

3. http://www.essential-architecture.com/ARCHITECT/ARCH-rohe.htm 4. “Less Is More” Mies van der Rohe, http://www.jameslogancourier.org/index.php?itemid=1769 (Oct 7, 2010)


SECTION TWO

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STRUCTURES OF MIES VAN DER ROHE


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STRUCTURES

THE HISTORY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE

Barcelona Pavilion The Barcelona Pavilion was the German Pavilion for the 1929 International show in Barcelona, Spain. This building was used for the German section of the show. It was an important building in the history of modern architecture, known for its simple form and elegant materials, such as marble and travertine. Mies was offered the commission of this building in 1928 after he was successful at running the 1927 Werkbund show in Stuttgart. The Germans then decided Mies was appropriate for the job to design and construct a building that will resemble Germany in the 1929 International Show. However, Mies had an extreme time crunch, he had to design the Barcelona Pavilion in less than a year. After rejecting the original site because of aesthetic reasons, Mies agreed to a quiet site at the narrow side of a wide, diagonal axis, where the pavilion would still offer beautiful views of its surroundings and a path leading to one of the exhibition’s main attractions, the Spanish Village. The pavilion was going to be bare, no trade exhibits, just the structure itself and furniture that has been designed for the Barcelona Pavilion (the Barcelona Chair – see furniture section). Due to the building itself used as an art piece rather than an area where visitors can have a seat or accommodated, Mies was able to create largely open Figure 1. Barcelona Pavilion Exterior spaces; the floor plan is very simple. The visitors were not meant to be led in a straight line through the building, but to take continuous turns around corners. Because this Pavilion was planned as an exhibition only, it Figure 1. Barcelona Pavilion Exterior, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/ Pabell%C3%B3n_Alemania.jpg (Oct 7, 2010)


STRUCTURES

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was only meant to be up temporarily. The building was taken down in early 1930; it barely stood for a year. However, black and white pictures were taken while the building was standing and a group of Spanish architects rebuilt the Pavilion in 1983 and 1986.

Farnsworth House Between 1946 and 1951, Mies van der Rohe designed and built the Farnsworth House, a weekend getaway near Chicago for Dr. Edith Farnsworth. Mies decided in this design to mix the relationship between nature and shelter and where we would fit in between those two. Using exposed steal and glass, Mies showed the word that bare materials can be used as part of the design. The glass structure was raised 6 feet about the ground, surrounded by forest and a river. Having a white frame and all glass walls, the house was flooded with light and scenes of nature in every direction. “A woodpaneled fireplace (also housing mechanical equipment, kitchen, and toilets) is positioned within the open space to suggest living, dining and sleeping spaces without using walls”5. None of the partitions inside the house touch the outside glass enclosing. The exterior being all glass, sliding draperies from the ceiling to floor give the option of no privacy to full privacy. The house has been described as “sublime, a temple hovering between heaven and earth, a poem, a work of art”6. The house and its land mostly filled with forest were sold at auction for 7.5 million US dollars to preservation groups in 2004 and is now a public museum. Many have considered the Farnsworth House as Mies’ greatest work.

5. “Less Is More” Mies van der Rohe, http://www.jameslogancourier.org/index.php?itemid=1769 (Oct 7, 2010) 6. http://www.essential-architecture.com/ARCHITECT/ARCH-rohe.htm


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STRUCTURES

THE HISTORY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE

Seagram Building “In 1958, Mies van der Rohe designed what is often regarded as the pinnacle of the modernist high-rise architecture, the Seagram Building in New York City”7. First time being used, Mies pulled out a technique with this building by setting it back from the front of the property line to have a large front plaza and a fountain on Park Avenue. Now one of the most common design features in tall buildings, Mies had to convince Bronfman’s bankers that this technique would enhance the presence of the building, especially of this height. The Seagram Building is said to be one of the first buildings to undergo the “fast-track” construction process, where the design documentation and the construction of the building are done at the same time. Using the Seagram as a basis of other buildings and structures, Mies’ office designed many modern high-rise office towers, most famously the Chicago Federal Center, and the IBM Plaza in Chicago, the Westmount Square in Montreal and the Toronto-Dominion (TD) Centre in 1967. “Each project applies the prototype rectangular form on stilts and ever-more refined enclosure wall systems, but each creates a unique set of exterior spaces that are an essential aspect of Figure 2. Seagram Building his creative efforts”8. 7. “Less Is More” Mies van der Rohe, http://www.jameslogancourier.org/index.php?itemid=1769 (Oct 7, 2010) 8. http://www.essential-architecture.com/ARCHITECT/ARCH-rohe.htm


SECTION THREE

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FURNITURE OF MIES VAN DER ROHE


FURNITURE

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THE HISTORY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE

Barcelona Chair The Barcelona chair was specifically designed for the Barcelona Pavilion spoken about earlier. The design was a result of collaboration between Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and partner and friend, also an architect and designer, Lilly Reich. A representation of modernism, the chair’s design was inspired by folding chairs of ancient times. Knoll Inc has been manufacturing the chair since 1953. Currently the chair comes in two different trims for the frame, chrome and stainless. The chair is almost fully hand-made and every chair is stamped with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s. Many stores sell very similar chairs with different names due to them not authorized to sell the “Barcelona Chair”, such as IKEA.

Brno Chair Designing in 1929-1930, the Brno Chair was made for a bedroom of the Tugendhat House in Brno, Czech Republic. The design was based on similar chairs Mies and Lilly had done before, while all the similar chairs were based on the original design of Mart Stam. The Brno has become a modern furniture classic when every building, home and office is likely to have a chair very similar to this one. Constructed usually with a single piece of steal bar that is bent to form around the entire chair, acting as both the arms and legs. Mies used polished stainless steel, but nowadays most of the chairs are chrome plated. Figure 3. Barcelona Chair

Figure 3. Knolls Inc. - Mies Van Der Rohe Collection, http://www.knoll.com/designer/designer_detail.jsp?designer_id=122 ( Oct 16, 2010)


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Tugendhat chair Taking a look at the chair, it looks like a mix of the Barcelona chair and the Brno Chair. Like the Barcelona chair, the Tugendhat is fitted with a large padded leather seat for the seat and the back and leather straps clutching the metal frame. But the legs seem to have come straight off a Brno Chair; one long solid piece of stainless steel bent around to a C-shape under the seat to create stability. It was first produced by Josef Mueller Berliner Metallgewerbe for Mies and was later licensed to Knoll Inc. who produced a limited number of the chairs with and without arms from 1948. “Gerry Griffith in Chicago created examples in the 1960s for use in the United Airlines Executive Office Building designed by Bruce Graham of Skidmore Owings and Merrill.” Figure 4. Tugendhat Chair

Other Peices Over the years, Mies created many peices of furniture from chairs to tables to what is rather now falsely known as the “Barcelona Couch” because it was not designed for the Pavilion but rather for a apartment in New York City. The Barcelona Daybed is still in production to this day by Knoll Inc. Figure 5. Barcelona Daybed Figure 4. http://www.knoll.com/designer/designer_detail.jsp?designer_id=122 Figure 5. http://www.knoll.com/designer/designer_detail.jsp?designer_id=122


SECTION four

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THE HISTORY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF MIES VAN DER ROHE


BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Bibliography “Mies Van Der Rohe.” In Contemporary Architects (Contemporary Architects, 3rd ed). 3rd ed. Farmington Hills: Gale Group, 1994. 646-648. Gale, Andrian, James Gowan, and Sandra Honey. “Barcelona Pavilion.” In Mies Van Der Rohe: European Works (Architectural Monographs, No 11). New York: St Martins Pr, 1986. 62-70. “Mies Van Der Rohe.” In International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture: Architects: 001. London: St James Pr, 1993. 580-582. “Knoll : Designer - Mies Van Der Rohe.” Knoll. http://www.knoll.com/designer/ designer_detail.jsp?designer_id=122 (accessed October 16, 2010). Kries, Matthias, and Alexander V. Vegesack. “Mies Designs in Production at Knoll .” In Mies van der Rohe: Stuttgart, Barcelona and Brno: furniture and architecture. Genève: Skira, 1998. 68-72. “Mies Van Der Rohe.” In Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia Volume 13 - M. Toronto: Lexicon Publications, Inc., 1986. 415. “Ludwig Mies van der Rohe .” Essential Architects. www.essential-architecture. com/ARCHITECT/ARCH-rohe.htm (accessed October 9, 2010). “Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Mies_van_der_ Rohe#Death (accessed October 5, 2010). “Construction.” In Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House: Postcard Book. Lancaster, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2006. 4-9. “The James Logan Courier » “Less is More” Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.” The James Logan Courier. http://www.jameslogancourier.org/index.php?itemid=1769 (accessed October 7, 2010).


Mies Van Der Roh  

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