Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (27 March 1886 – 17 August 1969) is one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, known for his role in the development of the most enduring architectural style of the era: modernism. Born in Aachen, Germany, Mies' career began in the influential studio of Peter Behrens, where Mies worked alongside other two other titans of modernism, Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. For almost a century, Mies' minimalist style has proved very popular; his famous aphorism "less is more" is still widely used, even by those who are unaware of its origins.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Had the worst jury ever? Failed your exams? Worry not! Before you fall on your bed and cry yourself to sleep—after posting a cute, frantic-looking selfie on Instagram, of course (hashtag so dead)—take a look at this list of nine celebrated architects, all of whom share a common trait. You might think that a shiny architecture degree is a requirement to be a successful architect; why else would you put yourself through so many years of architecture school? Well, while the title of "architect" may be protected in many countries, that doesn't mean you can't design amazing architecture—as demonstrated by these nine architects, who threw convention to the wind and took the road less traveled to architectural fame.
There’s no doubt that one of the best things about architecture is its universality. Wherever you come from, whatever you do, however you speak, architecture has somehow touched your life. However, when one unexpectedly has to pronounce a foreign architect’s name... things can get a little tricky. This is especially the case when mispronunciation could end up making you look less knowledgeable than you really are. (If you're really unlucky, it could end up making you look stupid in front of your children and the whole world.)
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 22 architects with names that are a little difficult to pronounce, and paired them with a recording in which their names are said impeccably. Listen and repeat as many times as it takes to get it right, and you’ll be prepared for any intellectual architectural conversation that comes your way.
In the 1960s James Stirling asked Ludwig Mies van der Rohe why he didn’t design utopian visions for new societies, like those of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City or Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse. Mies replied that he wasn’t interested in fantasies, but only in “making the existing city beautiful.” When Stirling recounted the conversation several decades later it was to the audience of a public enquiry convened in London – he was desperately trying to save Mies’ only UK design from being rejected in planning.
It couldn’t be done: the scheme went unbuilt; the drawings were buried in a private archive. Now, for the first time in more than thirty years, Mies’ Mansion House Square will be presented to the public in both a forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)—Mies van der Rohe and James Stirling: Circling the Square—and, if it is successful, a book currently being funded through Kickstarter by the REAL foundation.
There are at least as many definitions of architecture as there are architects or people who comment on the practice of it. While some embrace it as art, others defend architecture’s seminal social responsibility as its most definitive attribute. To begin a sentence with “Architecture is” is a bold step into treacherous territory. And yet, many of us have uttered — or at least thought— “Architecture is…” while we’ve toiled away on an important project, or reflected on why we’ve chosen this professional path.
Most days, architecture is a tough practice; on others, it is wonderfully satisfying. Perhaps, though, most importantly, architecture is accommodating and inherently open to possibility.
This collection of statements illustrates the changing breadth of architecture’s significance; we may define it differently when talking among peers, or adjust our statements for outsiders.
In early 2016, we introduced Vardehaugen, a Norwegian office that created a series of life sized drawings of their projects in their own backyard. After publishing this exercise on our site, Spanish architect and academic Alberto T. Estévez reached out to tell us that this same exercise has been carried out at ESARQ (UIC Barcelona) for the past 10 years with second and third year architecture students. According to Estévez, the exercise "represents something irreplaceable: it brings you closer to experiencing life-sized spaces of classic works of architecture" from the Farnsworth house to José Antonio Coderch's Casa de la Marina.
About 10 years ago I had an idea for a special teaching exercise, one that I thought would be interesting and instructive at the same time. So I started doing the practice class we’ve been talking about with architecture students in their second and third year of study at ESARQ (UIC Barcelona): the School of Architecture, which I founded 20 years ago as the first Director at the International University of Catalonia.
Now, we do the lesson every year in the Architectural Composition class that I teach, which discusses the theory and history of architecture.
Today marks 130 years since the birth of German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In honor of this tremendously influential figure, we're shining some light into the lesser known facts about Mies' life in order to better understand and contextualize his architecture.
For this, our colleagues at ArchDaily en Español have referred to "Vidas construidas, Biografías de arquitectos" (Constructed Lives, Biographies of Architects), a book by Anatxu Zabalbeascoa and Javier Rodríguez Marcos. This text, released by publisher Gustavo Gili, features the biographies of 20 of the world's most celebrated architects, from the Renaissance to the Modern movement. Each story is a fascinating journey into the lives of each architect, and the details allow us to understand the genesis of many works that are today considered classics.
We've chosen 20 facts that reveal the thoughts, influences and decisions that brought Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's architecture to the forefront of modernism.
In an exclusive thirty minute-long discussion with Kevin Roche, described in this interview as "arguably the greatest living architect you've never heard of," Monocle's Steve Bloomfield hears about his early years in practice through to the evolution of his design philosophy over a career which has spanned five decades.
In his book We Have Never Been Modern, philosopher Bruno Latour concludes that an inability to make humanity and nature inherently separate is one of Modernism’s most misguided tropes. Thus, contemporary designers that hope to riff on or have continuity with modernism must understand that architecture, even at its most aestheticized, is not hermetically sealed off from the outside world - and that therefore modernism is not a plateau of design, but another base camp on the road to further refinement.
In Chicago, the city where Modernism reached both its metaphoric and physical peak, Atelier 2B, a team of Yewon Ji, Nicolas Lee, Ryan Otterson, recently shared the top-five prize of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's ChiDesign Competition (part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial) for their project Soft in the Middle: The Collaborative Core. Indebted to the legacy of Mies and the International Style, Atelier 2B proposed a Modernist-tower-redux that (externally at least) is composed of three stacked rectangular volumes bisected with terraces, set back from the street by a large public plaza. The project brief called for “a new center for architecture, design and education,” in a competition judged by critics including Stanley Tigerman, David Adjaye, Ned Cramer, Monica Ponce de Leon, and Billie Tsien.
Chicago has long been known for distinctive architecture, and this year’s inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial has only furthered that reputation. Although it is nearly impossible to narrow down the countless iconic structures, in celebration of the Biennial, we have compiled five Chicago buildings that highlight the many phases of the city’s architectural history.
The Barcelona Pavilion was officially only used once, and that was on the 27th of May, 1929, when King Alfonso XIII of Spain participated in a ceremony for its opening. Its role, according to an official statement by President Paul von Hindenburg, was to “present the Spirit of the New Germany: simplicity and clarity of means and intentions—everything is open, nothing is concealed.” As the first official participation of Germany in an international event since the catastrophic end of the First World War, it was a day of enormous symbolic importance, attended by diplomats, aristocrats and dignitaries. Within a few years the peace would collapse, in Barcelona as much as in Berlin, but for a moment, in May, modernity was met with optimism.
The Barcelona Pavilion was intended to embody this moment. Free of external ornament, the building was made of the most luxurious materials. Walls were fashioned of thin plates of luminous semi-precious stone, from green polished marble to golden onyx. According to Philip Johnson’s influential account, they didn’t physically limit space, but rather suggested flowing movement, and didn’t divide so much as bind; bringing the inside to the outside by continuing beyond the roofline into the garden. While the columns provided a kind of cartesian grid of points tethering the roof, the walls were positioned freely. In the courtyard was a bronze nude, arms aloft in a gesture that might be dance, might be grief, reflected in a still pool. With the asymmetrical walls, the luxurious stone, the bright light, the podium on which it sat; the pavilion was at the same time both a hyper-modernist building, and a classical ruin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you don't have access to an architecture library (and even if you do), sifting through shelves can take hours. Buying books can be even more painful — for your wallet, at least. Instead, why not browse this list of 25 books that are all free and easily accessible online? Some are well-known classics of architecture literature, but we hope you find a few surprises as well.
Five of history's most iconic modern houses are re-created as illustrations in this two-minute video created by Matteo Muci. Set to the tune of cleverly timed, light-hearted music, the animation constructs the houses piece-by-piece on playful pastel backgrounds. The five homes featured in the short but sweet video are Le Courbusier's Villa Savoye, Gerrit Rietveld's Rietveld Schröder House, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, Philip Johnson's Glass House and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.
The creative minds behind Luftwerk have turned to Kickstarter to crowdfund a project that would transform Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House into an immersive light show. Similar to their installation at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater residence in 2011, artistic duo Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero plan to illuminate the “structural minimalism and transparency” of the house in a way that would offer a new perspective of the modern masterpiece.
Check out a video of the proposed light show and Luftwerk’s work at Fallingwater, after the break...