Mies, the Modernist Man of Letters

with smoke, 1957; photographed for Life magazine. Image Courtesy of Frank Scherschel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

This review of Detlef Mertins’ book “Mies” – by Thomas de Monchaux - originally appeared in Metropolis Magazine as “Mies Reconsidered“. According to de Monchaux, Mertins reveals the modernist master as a voracious reader who interpreted a wide variety of influences to arrive at his stripped-down style.

The quintessential page of the 528 that make up Detlef Mertins’s monumental new monograph on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—entitled simply Mies (Phaidon, 2014)—is 155. There, you will find a reproduction, a page within a page, of page 64 of Romano Guardini’s 1927 book Letters from Lake Como—a book about modernity and human subjectivity—with Mies’s own annotations penciled in the margins, in a surprisingly ornate and delicate hand. 

And there, you will find Mertins’s notes on Mies’s notes on Guardini: “Of all the books in Mies’s library, Guardini’s Letters is the most heavily marked. Mies highlighted passage after passage with bold and rapid margin strokes and wrote key words diagonally and in large script across the first pages of many of the chapters: Haltung (stance), Erkenntnis (knowledge), Macht (power).” Mertins’s vivid marginality, his attention to the divine details along edges, recalls the experience of reading the Talmud, that commentary on Jewish law and scripture in which, by marking and emending earlier readers’ marks and emendations, generations of rabbis enacted an intimate conversation across time and space. 

Read on for more insight into Mies’ influences.

Infographic: The Bauhaus, Where Form Follows Function

UPDATE: In honor of the 81st anniversary of the day the closed in 1933, we’re re-publishing this popular infographic, which was originally published April 16th, 2012.

From the “starchitect” to “architecture for the 99%,” we are witnessing a shift of focus in the field of architecture. However, it’s in the education system where these ideas really take root and grow. This sea change inspired us to explore past movements, influenced by economic shifts, war and the introduction of new technologies, and take a closer look at the bauhaus movement.

Often associated with being anti-industrial, the Arts and Crafts Movement had dominated the field before the start of the Bauhaus in 1919. The Bauhaus’ focus was to merge design with industry, providing well designed products for the many.

The Bauhaus not only impacted design and architecture on an international level, but also revolutionized the way design schools conceptualize education as a means of imparting an integrated design approach where form follows function.

Happy Birthday Mies Van der Rohe!

A big happy birthday goes out to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), who would have turned 128 years old today. Mies, who studied under influential figures such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, helped to develop the most enduring architectural style of the 20th Century: modernism.

Among his most famous accomplishments are his seminal Barcelona Pavilion; his work as the head of The Bauhaus school; and, after the Nazi ascension in forced him to emigrate, his leadership at the Illinois Institute of Technology. During his 20 years at IIT, Mies developed what became known as ‘the second Chicago school of architecture’, a style of simplified, rectilinear high-rise buildings exemplified by projects such as 860-880 Lakeshore Drive and the Seagram Building. Mies’s minimalist style proved very popular; his famous aphorism ‘less is more’ is still widely used, even by those who are unaware of its origins. All of this makes him one of the most influential architects of the modernist movement and the 20th century.

ArchDaily logo, 860-880 Lake Shore Drive © ArchDaily

To celebrate him we have changed our logo to a Mies doodle (above) and have rounded up our great Mies coverage of the past. See the extensive list after the break!

Mecanoo, Martinez + Johnson Selected to Redesign Mies’ MLK Memorial Library

© Mecanoo with

Mayor Vincent Gray has named Mecanoo architecten and Martinez + Johnson Architecture winners of a competition to reinvent Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library – the only library and D.C. building ever designed by the legendary architect. The Netherlands- and D.C.-based team aims to resurrect the neglected building by improving “Mies in a contemporary Miesian way.” This includes opening up the boxy interiors to enhance flow and increase natural light and, most dramatically, sculpting two rooftop terraces by topping the historic landmark structure with a four-story, mixed-use addition.

We will keep you posted with more details as they come available. In the meantime, scroll through the renderings and presentation that landed Mecanoo and Martinez + Johnson the commission, after the break.

Shortlisted Concepts Unveiled for MLK Jr. Memorial Library Renovation

© STUDIOS Architecture with The Freelon Group

Preliminary designs have been released by three shortlisted teams competing to renovate ’s historic Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C. – the only library and D.C. building ever designed by the legendary architect. Preview each proposal and learn how you can submit your feedback to the D.C. Public Library before they make their decision, after the break.

AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe

© Jamie Schafer

Situated at the eastern edge of Downtown Detroit, Lafayette Park constitutes the world’s largest collection of buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe. The 78-acre complex was completed in 1959, just after Crown Hall and the Seagram Building. It is not as well known as many projects of that decade, however, many critics argue the project deserves greater recognition. 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 fifty years after its construction.

Mies’ IBM Building Gets Lavish Refurbishment

© Jeffery Howe

Mies van der Rohe’s last constructed skyscraper, the IBM building in Chicago, recently underwent a significant transformation: the modernist office building is now a 316-room luxury hotel. An interesting post on the ArchitectureChicago Plus blog weighs in on the building’s history and ponders: will ’ minimalist aesthetic be compromised by its new lavish furnishings? Read it all here.

AD Round Up: Iconic Houses in America

© Robert Ruschak – Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Five great architects, five great houses. This 4th of July, take a look at five of the most iconic houses in the USA. The main image is of a house that redefined the relationship between man, architecture and nature — ’s Fallingwater House. If you’re searching for the meaning of less is more, you must check out the ’s Farnsworth House or The Glass House by Philip Johnson. You should also check out one of the first built examples of Postmodern architecture, The Vanna Venturi House by Robert Venturi. Finally, revisit Frank Gehry’s Norton House, known for its eccentric form and eclectic materiality. Which one is your favorite?

Video: 75 Years of Mies van der Rohe and His Chicago School

YouTube Preview Image

When emigrating from Germany in 1938 to head Chicago’s Armour Institute, Ludwig van der Rohe was challenged with two tasks: first reform the schools curriculum to his “back-to-basics” approach and then develop plans for a newly expanded 120-acre campus for the creation of Illinois Institute of Technology, a product of the Armour Institute and Lewis Institute merger. Mies was able to exceed both challenges and the outcomes have had a lasting influence on Chicago and modernism for the past 75 years. In celebration of this legacy and Mies’ 127th birthday, IIT complied this comprehensive video that features Mies’ contribution to the modern landscape of their campus and city. 

Learn more about Mies’ IIT master plan and building here on ArchDaily.

AD Classics: Chicago Federal Center / Mies van der Rohe

Courtesy of Samuel Ludwig

The Chicago Federal Center, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1974, actually consists of three buildings which are arranged around and define the Chicago Federal Plaza. On the eastern side of South Dearborn Street sits the 30-story Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. On the western side, the 42-story John C. Kluczynski Federal Building and the single story Post Office define the plaza.

Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies: Lafayette Park Detroit

Lafayette Park, an affordable middle-class residential area in downtown Detroit, is home to the largest collection of buildings designed by in the world. Today, it is one of Detroit’s most racially integrated and economically stable neighborhoods, although it is surrounded by evidence of a city in financial distress. Through interviews with and essays by residents; reproductions of archival material; and new photographs by Karin Jobst, Vasco Roma, and Corine Vermeulen, and previously unpublished photographs by documentary filmmaker Janine Debanné, Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies examines the way that Lafayette Park residents confront and interact with this unique modernist environment.

LEGO Turns 80, Remains Architecturally Awesome

National Building Museum’s Towering Ambition exhibition by Architect Adam Reed Tucker. Towering Spiral via Flickr User © 2010 Brian Mosley

“Legos were the ultimate building tool, capable of making the most advanced space ships, powerful vehicles, impressive buildings, and incredible cities. As a child, everyone I knew loved Legos, and this never seemed to change. In high school, whenever a conversation with friends happened to shift upon Legos, everyone would gleefully reminisce about their days making fantastic structures out of those awesome little building blocks. [...] No doubt Legos played a supporting role in my growth in appreciation for architecture.” - Architect Albert Lam, in a Blog post for the LPA

When you ask architects what inspired them, almost all (according to one study, 99%) can trace the calling back to the same, simple origin: playing with their bricks.

The LEGO Group, which turns 80 today, can boast that there are approximately 62 LEGO bricks for ever person on earth.  However, it wasn’t until 1958, when the newly-plastic LEGO bricks incorporated the classic knob-and-tube-connecting-system, that they overtook the Froebel block (’s toy of choice) to become the massively popular architectural inspiration they are today.

But while the influence of LEGO on architects may be self-evident, not many know about Architecture’s contribution to LEGO. In fact, only through the lens of Architecture, can you truly understand why LEGO merits its bold moniker as “The Toy of the Century.”

Find out Architecture & LEGOs unlikely relationship, after the break…

Mies Towers for Sale….(Just Read the Fine Print first)

Lafayette Park (1946) Ludwig van der Rohe. Photo via Flickr CC User MI SHPO.

No architectural gem is safe from Detroit’s foreclosure crisis – not even two of Mies Van der Rohe’s very own creations. The , two 22-story towers of 584 units, originally part of a major urban redevelopment project in the late 50s early 60s, are up for auction July 18th.

But be warned, there is a catch…

Find out the fine print, after the break.

PBS lists Top Ten Buildings that Changed America

Vanna Venturi House / © Maria Buszek

PBS has released their selections of the top ten buildings that have changed the way Americans live, work and play. From ’s 224-year-0ld Virginia State Capitol to Robert Ventui’s postmodern masterpiece the Vanna Venturi House, each building on the list will be featured in a new TV and web production coming to PBS in 2013. Continue after the break to view the top ten influential buildings and let us know your thoughts!

Renovation of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie / David Chipperfield

© Gerhard Murza/Bpk via Bloomberg

A powerful and expressive design it itself, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie in is still admired as a concrete, steel, and glass landmark today. Dedicated to culture and the fine arts, the building will be going through a major renovation, which will  be overseen by British architect, David Chipperfield who has recently worked extensively in Berlin, finishing work on the war-ravaged Neues Museum on the Museum Island complex in 2009. The renovation will start in 2015 and last three years, during which time the museum will be closed. The building, completed in 1968, is Mies van der Rohe’s only work in Germany after World War II and is in need of thorough modernization after 40 years. Restoration of the glass facade, stone terrace and concrete and steel structure, along with new security and fire technology are included in the project.

Download the “From Mad Men to Mies” Wallpaper to your Tech Device

After receiving a lot of compliments on our “From MadMen to Mies” graphic, we decided to let you take a little piece of (the original Mad Man) with you wherever you go. Click through the gallery below to find the wallpaper for the technological device of your choosing – iPad, iPhone, Android phone, MacBook, or Samsung Tablet. Take one, or heck, take all. In this case, less isn’t more.

From Mad Men to Mies: Why Modernism Holds Sway

© Megan Jett

It’s June 1966. Mies’ iconic Seagram Building dominates New York City. Bob Dylan has just released Blonde on Blonde. The Vietnam War is escalating. John Lennon has yet to meet Yoko Ono. Martin Luther King, Jr. has yet to be assassinated. And Don Draper is readjusting to married life – with his 25 year-old secretary.

The excitement over Mad Men, while always eager, was positively explosive last Sunday. The season 5 premiere resulted in the show’s highest ratings to date (3.5 million viewers, up 21% from last year). While the show has always received critical acclaim, now, for whatever reason, it has reached a fever-pitch of popularity.

On a purely aesthetic level, it’s easy to explain. The show draws in audiences with a meticulous, sumptuous set design that allows a nostalgic journey back in time: when design was innovative & clean, architecture was confident (cocky even),  and modernism still held its promise.

But on another level, the show is successful because of its inevitability. The very knowledge of the ephemerality of that confidence, a theme particularly relevant to audiences in the wake of the Recession, is what strikes a chord, what makes the show positively hypnotizing.

Watching Mad Men is like watching a Modernist car crash. A beautiful demise.

More on the Modernist Landscape of Mad Men and why the show has struck a chord with audiences today after the break. 

AD Round Up: Classics by Mies van der Rohe

© Greg Robbins

In case you haven’t noticed, we are celebrating Mies van der Rohe’s 126th Birthday. You can’t miss our infographic on one of the most famous architects that ever lived. And of course, you can’t miss some of our AD Classics on projects. Like the Farnsworth House, built between 1945 and 1951. Or the Neue National Gallery in Berlin. One of the most popular project he designed was the Barcelona Pavilion, designed for the World’s Expo of 1929. We couldn’t leave out two skyscrapers that redefined modern high-rise construction: 860-880 Lake Shore Drive and Seagram Building.