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Mies van der Rohe's Lafayette Park Named National Historic Landmark

One of the first and most successful examples of urban renewal, Detroit's 78-acre Lafayette Park is known for being the world's largest collection of works by Mies van der Rohe. Now, the mid-century modern "masterpiece" is the first urban renewal project to be declared a National Historic Landmark. This is partially due to the fact that, as Ruth Mills, architectural historian for Quinn Evans Architects told the Detroit Free Press, "Lafayette Park was one of the few urban renewal projects that's done it successfully." It is now Michigan's 41st landmark.

A Virtual Look Into Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House

Farnsworth House, the temple of domestic modernism designed by Mies van der Rohe as a weekend retreat for a Chicago doctor, is one of the most paradoxical houses of the 20th century. A perfectionist mirage, it floats like a pavilion in a park, but its history has been beset by plagues, floods and feuds. As the second installment of a series of three modernist classics presented by Archilogic, we’ve modeled the Farnsworth house so that you can see if—in spite of its austere reputation—it can be lived in after all. In this model you can explore the spatial arrangement of the house, and refurnish it with Eames chairs, deck it out with your IKEA favorites, or booby-trap it with children’s toys.

Exhibition: Side by Side: Philip Johnson's Glass House and Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House

Side by Side is an exhibition by photographer Robin Hill that explores the similarities and differences between two of America's most iconic houses. The Glass House by Philip Johnson and The Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe. Through a series of dyptychs, Mr. Hill's lens explores both the geometry of the structures and their place in the environment. Tellingly the exhibition is housed in the Seagram Building designed by Mies van der Rohe and assisted by Philip Johnson. The lobby of The Four Seasons is an ideal venue for this exhibition as much of the design aesthetic of both architects is prevalent in the space as well as in the photographs.

"Baby Rems" and the Small World of Architecture Internships

The world of architecture is small. So small in fact, that Rem Koolhaas has been credited with the creation of over forty practices worldwide, led by the likes of Zaha Hadid and Bjarke Ingels. Dubbed “Baby Rems” by Metropolis Magazine, this Koolhaas effect is hardly an isolated pattern, with manifestations far beyond the walls of OMA. The phenomenon has dominated the world of architecture, assisted by the prevalence and increasing necessity of internships for burgeoning architects.

In a recent article for Curbed, Patrick Sisson dug into the storied history of internships to uncover some unexpected connections between the world's most prolific architects. With the help of Sisson's list, we've compiled a record of the humble beginnings of the household names of architecture. Where did Frank Gehry get his start? Find out after the break.

Renzo Piano's pavilion at Louis Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum. Image © Robert Laprelle Jeanne Gang worked on OMA's Maison Bordeaux. Image © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA Mies van der Rohe worked on Behren's AEG Turbine Factory. Image © Flickr CC user Joseph The Guaranty Building in Buffalo, New York by Louis Sullivan. Image Courtesy of Jack E. Boucher

AD Round Up: American Classics

Happy Fourth of July! In recognition of Independence Day in the United States, ArchDaily has assembled six of our favorite "American Classics." Featuring projects by Louis Kahn, Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, Paul Rudolph, Eero Saarinen, and Richard Meier, each of these canonical works occupies a prominent place in twentieth-century American architecture. See them all after the break.

Sex and Real Estate, Reconsidered: What Was the True Story Behind Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House?

Unidentified woman, perhaps Edith Farnsworth, at Farnsworth House. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.
Unidentified woman, perhaps Edith Farnsworth, at Farnsworth House. Undated. [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.

In 1951, Mies van der Rohe completed a house in Plano, Illinois that was the epitome of his modernist ideals; with a steel structure surrounded entirely by glass walls the building perfectly connected the user with its idyllic natural setting, and it was - and is - venerated as a masterwork. A lesser-known story about the work is how its owner Dr Edith Farnsworth attempted to sue her architect, in a story of bitterness and unrequited love - but even less well-known, argues Nora Wendl, is the story of what really happened. In this excerpt from her essay "Uncompromising Reasons for Going West: A Story of Sex and Real Estate, Reconsidered," published in Thresholds issue 43: "Scandalous," Wendl examines the overblown and dubious assertions made about Farnsworth's intentions, finding that the truth may be much more simple: perhaps the Farnsworth House is just not a pleasant place to live.

“I have decided to speak up.”

Such is the threshold between a private affair and a public scandal: one person speaks. These are also the opening lines to “The Threat to the Next America,” which appears in the April 1953 issue of House Beautiful. Penned by editor Elizabeth Gordon, the article describes an unnamed, but “highly intelligent, now disillusioned, woman who spent more than $70,000 building a 1-room house that is nothing but a glass cage on stilts.”[1] Gordon warns readers of a design movement sweeping the nation:

Something is rotten in the state of design—and it is spoiling some of our best efforts in modern living. After watching it for several years, after meeting it with silence, House Beautiful has decided to speak out and appeal to your common sense, because it is common sense that is mostly under attack. Two ways of life stretch before us. One leads to the richness of variety, to comfort and beauty. The other, the one we want fully to expose to you, retreats to poverty and unlivability. Worst of all, it contains the threat of cultural dictatorship.[2]

Farnsworth House, south façade and terrace. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, interior. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, looking northwest from the interior of screened-in porch, furnished by Farnsworth. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, exterior, view of south façade and east end of terrace with Farnsworth’s sculptures. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.

New Images Released of Mecanoo's Plan to Modernize Mies' D.C. Library

Mecanoo and Martinez + Johnson Architecture has released their completed preliminary designs for the modernization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - the only library and Washington D.C. building ever designed by Mies van der Rohe. The team’s competition-winning scheme aims to improve “Mies in a contemporary Miesian way.”

“While not final, these renderings demonstrate the amazing possibilities as we work to transform this historic building into a center for learning, innovation and engagement for the District,” says the D.C. Public Library. Updated images and more information about the design, after the break.

Review: 'All Of This Belongs To You' - Civic Urbanism At London's Victoria & Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), named after the Queen and Her Consort, has its foundations in the Great Exhibition of 1851 amidst the wealth, innovation and squalor of the Industrial Revolution. Britain was flooded by prosperity which allowed for the development of major new institutions to collect and exhibit objects of cultural significance or artistic value. The institute’s first director, Henry Cole, declared that it should be “a schoolroom for everyone,” and a democratic approach to its relationship with public life has remained the cornerstone of the V&A. Not only has it always been free of charge but it was also the first to open late hours (made possible by gas lighting), allowing a more comprehensive demographic of visitor.

Their latest exhibition, which opens today, seeks to realign the museum’s vast collection and palatial exhibition spaces in South Kensington with these founding concepts. The interventions of All of This Belongs to You attempt to push the V&A’s position as an extension of London’s civic and cultural built environment to the fore, testing the museum’s ability to act as a 21st century public institution. To do this in London, a city where the notion of public and private is increasingly blurred, has resulted in a sequence of compelling installations which are tied together through their relevance either in subject matter, technique, or topicality.

The Ethics of Dust: Trajan’s Column by Jorge Oteros-Pailos. Image © Peter Kelleher / Victoria & Albert Museum ‘AgBags’ installed on the V&A’s stone façade as part of a work by Natalie Jermijenko. Image © Peter Kelleher / Victoria & Albert Museum Spike studs by Kent Stainless Ltd. that are intended 
to discourage people from sitting or sleeping 
in various spaces in the city. Image © Peter Kelleher / Victoria & Albert Museum MacBook Air casing and components from a computer used by journalists to write editorial about the data leaked to The Guardian newspaper by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. Image © The Guardian/ Victoria & Albert Museum

Mediating Mies: Dirk Lohan's Langham Hotel Lobby at the IBM Building

In 2013 the former IBM Building in Chicago, Mies van der Rohe's last completed skyscraper, underwent a significant renovation as a part of the tower was converted into a hotel. In this article, originally published in Blueprint issue #338 as "Lobbying for Mies van der Rohe," Anthea Gerrie catches up with Dirk Lohan - the Chicago architect who helped his grandfather design the building nearly 50 years ago, and who was called back in to design the new hotel's entrance lobby.

"It's not very Mies," says Dirk Lohan dubiously, in one of the great understatements of the year. We are standing in the double-height reception hall of the Langham Chicago hotel with what looks like dozens of multicoloured glass balloons swimming above us and a mirror-glass frieze adding to a cacophony of glitz and dazzle.

It is indeed the very antithesis of the aesthetic of the architect known for the phrase "less is more". But then the audacious idea of converting an office building by the most functionalist of architects into a five-star hotel was always going to be problematic.

The entrance canopy to the Langham Chicago at the former IBM Building. Image Courtesy of DesignCurial Dirk Lohan, sitting in his lobby for the Langham Hotel in the renovated IBM Building. Image © Matt Haas Courtesy of DesignCurial Other spaces throughout the building, such as the reception lobby pictured here, are "not very Mies," says Lohan. Image Courtesy of DesignCurial A young Dirk Lohan follows his grandfather Mies van der Rohe into a meeting. Image Courtesy of DesignCurial

Mies Meets Modesty in Joachim Brohm's 'Vernacular & Modern' Exhibition

On the surface, Mies van der Rohe's minimalist linear designs have little in common with the kitsch of vernacular architecture in the German countryside. Enter Joachim Brohm, who rose to prominence in the 1980s as one of the first European architecture photographers to work in colour, and now in a current exhibition draws an unexpected parallel between van der Rohe's designs for the unrealized Krefeld Golf Club in Germany and the rudimentary constructions of vernacular post-war architecture.

In "Vernacular & Modern," the latest exhibition at London's Grimaldi Gavin gallery, two of Brohm's photo series are juxtaposed to create a new narrative on architectural context. In Typology 1979, Brohm documents a series of vernacular houses in Ruhr, Germany; while in Mies Model Study, Brohm enters the temporary installation of van der Rohe's unbuilt golf club through a life-size model. Together, the two series contrast the highly aestheticized minimalist world of Mies van der Rohe with highly functional buildings of necessity in the German countryside. 

Typology 1979, Cat, II XL. Image © Joachim Brohm Typology 1979, Cat, I XL. Image © Joachim Brohm Mies Model Study V (Colour), 2013. Image © Joachim Brohm Mies Model Study III (Black & White), 2013. Image © Joachim Brohm

Find the connection between vernacular and van der Rohe after the break

Material Masters: Glass is More with Mies van der Rohe

To celebrate the first anniversary of our US Materials Catalog, this week ArchDaily is presenting a three-part series on "Material Masters," showing how certain materials have helped to inspire some of the world's greatest architects.

Mies van der Rohe, famous for his saying “less is more,” was one of the preeminent modernist architects, well known for pioneering the extensive use of glass in buildings. His works introduced a new level of simplicity and transparency, and his buildings were often referred to as "skin-and-bones" architecture for their emphasis on steel structure and glass enclosure. In addition to Mies van der Rohe, glass was a major influence for many architects of the modernist movement and reshaped the way we think about and define space. Today, glass has become one of the most used building materials, but its early architectural expression is perhaps best exemplified in the works of Mies.

Infographic: The Bauhaus Movement and the School that Started it All

Bauhaus, the school of design established by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919, has arguably been the most influential of any institution in shaping the trajectory of modern architecture. Out of this single school came an entire movement that would have lasting effects on architectural pedagogy and the design of everything from buildings to road signs. Born out of a larger cultural movement following Germany’s defeat in World War I which left the country ripe for regrowth without the previous constraints imposed by censorship, the core of Bauhaus philosophy were the principles of craftsmanship and mass production, which allowed for the movement’s rapid proliferation and a production model that would later inform contemporary design companies such as Ikea. Check out the infographic from Aram below to learn more about the movement, tracking the school from its origins in Weimar, via its canonical Gropius-designed home in Dessau, to its continuing legacy today. 

Last Is More: The Miesian Lesson

The following is an excerpt from Last Is More: Mies, IBM and the Transformation of Chicago. The Langham Hospitality Group commissioned architectural photojournalists Robert Sharoff and William Zbaren to document the transformation of eminent architect Mies van der Rohe's IBM Building -- the last skyscraper he designed -- into The Langham, Chicago. In this chapter, Sharoff and Zbaren provide a more detailed look into the period between 1965 and 1975, when Mies’s influence on Chicago's skyline was at its most pervasive.

The construction of the IBM Building occurred midway through a legendary period in Chicago architecture—the decadelong building boom between 1965 and 1975, when Mies’s influence on the city’s skyline was at its most pervasive.

During these years, numerous Miesian structures by firms such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, C. F. Murphy Associates, and Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett were erected, and the city’s reputation as the founder of American modernism was finally and firmly established. The best of those buildings continue to dominate the skyline.

Invisible Cities and the Curtain Wall: The Last Remnant of Modernism

Few of the architectural principles developed in the 20th century have been as widely accepted as the curtain wall, with the technology going from an implied feature of Le Corbusier's Five Points of Architecture to the go-to facade treatment of architects worldwide. In this article, originally published on Australian Design Review as "Invisible Cities - The Last Remnant of Modernism," Annabel Koeck argues that the curtain wall, initially prized for its glassy transparency, is now making buildings and even entire cities invisible thanks to its sheer ubiquity - at the expense of architectural expression.

Norwegian architects Snøhetta, based between Oslo and New York, designed the glass structure for the The National September 11 Memorial entry pavilion, which appears camouflaged against the backdrop of neighbouring glass curtain walls that define the New York skyline. Admittedly, Snøhetta’s pavilion was conceived by a very different brief, one defined by timidity and subtlety; yet paradoxically it was the curtain wall that facilitated this. Looking over the South Pool towards an array of glazed elevations that dominate the skyline it is ironic that a Modernist technique – the curtain wall – could now spell the end for architectural diversity in cities.

Luftwerk to Illuminate Mies' Farnsworth House this Weekend

Starting tomorrow (October 17), Chicago-based artists Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero of Luftwerk will be transforming Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House into a “canvas of light and sound” with the digital installation, INsite. “An exploration of the philosophy of Mies through light,” INsite will offer an entirely new nighttime experience at the Plano residence that highlights the architecture’s famed characteristics with an interactive light show pulsating to the original “sonic exploration” of Owen Clay Condon.

A video preview of the installation, after the break.

David Chipperfield's "Sticks and Stones" Toys with Van Der Rohe's Bones in Berlin

© Gili Merin
© Gili Merin

In Berlin, Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie has begun a new phase today with the opening of David Chipperfield’s intervention, a prologue to the imminent restoration which the famed British architect is about to undertake. Completed in 1968, the gallery was Mies’ last project and his final masterpiece; for nearly fifty years, nobody dared to touch it - until now. Marking this event is a large, site-specific installation, created by Chipperfield as an attempt to engage Mies in a spatial experiment (or perhaps a last, apologetic tribute to the 20th century master) moments before he is about to embark on a mission which will, inevitably, transform Mies’ ultimate legacy.

© Gili Merin © David von Becker © David von Becker © David von Becker

ArchDaily's Most Useful Articles of All Time

As summer draws to an end and we enter into the last quarter of 2014, we decided to round-up a selection of the most useful articles we've published over the past three years. Ranging from The 40 Architecture Documentaries to Watch in 2014 to The 10 Most Overlooked Women in Architectural History, we've also brought together app guides, career tips, and city guides. Alongside links to open-source CAD files and cut-out people, we've also featured book recommendations, study tips, and links to our complete coverage of some of the world's major architectural events and prizes. Delve into our collection and discover what our readers have found most useful!

The Berlage Archive: Elia Zenghelis (2009)

In this 2009 lecture titled "Fabricating Ideology and Architectural Education," seminal architect, educator, and co-founder of OMA Elia Zenghelis discusses the development of ideologies that shape architectural discourse vis-a-vis architectural education. Arguing that architectural education is motivated by religious, socio-political, and economic principles, Zenghelis makes the case that the war-torn 20th century has been an era of upheaval and conflict, resulting in the loss of historical context and a confused state for artists and architects. Proposing the idea that architecture is a servant of power, and is thus intrinsically intertwined with political and societal trends, Zenghelis urges a return to a contextualized understanding of architectural history in order for contemporary architects to develop a sensitive and nuanced approach to their practice. 

Discussing his relationships and collaborations with former students and colleagues Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, and Peter Eisenman, as well as the political and architectural legacy of such giants as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, Elia Zenghelis provides a compelling conversation about the inherent role of architecture in political discourse.

Don't miss the other lectures in The Berlage Archive series