Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, designer

The modern city, with its towers of glass and steel, can be at least in part attributed to the influence of architect Mies van der Rohe. Equally significant, if smaller in scale, is Mies' daring design of furniture, pieces that exhibit an unerring sense of proportion, as well as minimalist forms and exquisitely refined details. In fact, his chairs have been called architecture in miniature exercises in structure and materials that achieve an extraordinary visual harmony as autonomous pieces or in relation to the interiors for which they were originally designed.

Mies van der Rohe began his career in architecture in Berlin, working as an architect first in the studio of Bruno Paul and then, like Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, Peter Behrens. In the mid-1920's, he began to design furniture, pieces that he conceived and created for particular interiors. In 1927, he met Lilly Reich, a Bauhaus alumnus who collaborated with Mies on his first versions of a cantilevered chair with a tubular steel frame. The cantilevered chair had a curved frame that exploited the aesthetic, as well as the structural possibilities of this material. Their experiments culminated in the virtuoso Brno chair designed between 1929 and 1930 with a chromed flat steel frame.

Two years later, Mies and Lilly Reich designed what is perhaps his most famous creation. Created for the German Pavilion at the Barcelona International Exhibition, the Pavilion chair was intended as a modern throne; a thick cushion upholstered in luxurious leather and set upon a curved metal frame in the shape of an X inspired by classical furniture. Perfectly proportioned and finished, the simple chair exuded an air of elegance and authority.

In 1938, Mies emigrated from Europe and moved to Chicago. The rest of his career was devoted to promoting the Modernist style of architecture in the U.S., resulting in rigorously modern buildings such as the Farnsworth House and the Seagram Building, designed with Philip Johnson. Perhaps the best summation of his work is Mies' own: thoughts in action.

Source: DWR

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the architect

(b. Aachen, Germany 1886; d. Chicago, Illinois 1969)

Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe was born in Aachen, Germany in 1886. He worked in the family stone-carving business before he joined the office of Bruno Paul in Berlin. He entered the studio of Peter Behrens in 1908 and remained until 1912.

Under Behrens' influence, Mies developed a design approach based on advanced structural techniques and Prussian Classicism. He also developed a sympathy for the aesthetic credos of both Russian Constructivism and the Dutch De Stijl group. He borrowed from the post and lintel construction of Karl Friedrich Schinkel for his designs in steel and glass.

Mies worked with the magazine G which started in July 1923. He made major contributions to the architectural philosophies of the late 1920s and 1930s as artistic director of the Werkbund-sponsored Weissenhof project and as Director of the Bauhaus.

Famous for his dictum 'Less is More', Mies attempted to create contemplative, neutral spaces through an architecture based on material honesty and structural integrity. Over the last twenty years of his life, Mies achieved his vision of a monumental 'skin and bone' architecture. His later works provide a fitting denouement to a life dedicated to the idea of a universal, simplified architecture

Mies died in Chicago, Illinois in 1969.

ReferencesDennis Sharp. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Architects and Architecture. New York: Quatro Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-8230-2539-X. NA40.I45. p109.

Details
Recipient of the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, 1960.

Source: http://www.greatbuildings.com

And so it begins...

This is going to be good. Stay tuned for more.