Behind the Artist: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - industrial concept store

Behind the Artist: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

by @industrialkonzept Team

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was one of the most important architects of the 20th century and one of the main representatives of modern architecture. His works are characterized by a clear design language, reduced aesthetics and perfect functionality. But who was this man who made architectural history with his buildings such as the Barcelona Pavilion and the Seagram Building in New York City?

In this magazine article, we want to take an in-depth look at the life and work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and take a look behind the curtain of this fascinating artist. We want to find out how he gained a foothold as a young architect in Berlin and what ideas and concepts led him to have a significant influence on modern architecture. We will look at his most important works and understand how he managed to combine timeless beauty and maximum functionality.

But we also want to get to know Ludwig Mies van der Rohe the man - his thoughts, his feelings, his passions and his tragedies. How did he live, what inspired him and what drove him? We will look at his legacy and ask ourselves what influence he still has on architecture today.

Join us on an exciting journey into the life and work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and be inspired by one of the greatest artists of his time.

"I don't want to be interesting, I want to be good." - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Life and career of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aachen on March 27, 1886. His father was a stonemason and Mies van der Rohe grew up in a creative environment, which later benefited him as an architect.

After attending secondary school, he began training as a stonemason and later as a bricklayer. However, he quickly realized that his true passion was architecture. In 1905, he therefore began training as an architect in Bruno Paul's office in Berlin. It was there that he met Walter Gropius, who would later become his colleague and friend.

After completing his training, Mies van der Rohe initially worked as a freelance architect and mainly designed residential buildings and villas. In 1910, he joined the Deutscher Werkbund, an association of artists, architects and designers that was committed to combining art and industry. There he met renowned colleagues such as Peter Behrens and Hermann Muthesius, who had a great influence on his work.

In 1927, Mies van der Rohe was appointed head of the Bauhaus school in Dessau, where he radically restructured the curriculum and turned the architecture department into an important center of modern architecture. However, when the National Socialists seized power, the Bauhaus was closed in 1933 and Mies van der Rohe emigrated to the USA.

There he taught at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago and later at the School of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In the USA, he designed some of his most famous buildings such as Farnsworth House and the Seagram Building in New York City.

Mies van der Rohe's early career and his involvement in the Deutscher Werkbund and the development of the Bauhaus shaped his understanding of architecture and laid the foundations for his later works. In this period of his life, we can see how he found his way as an architect and developed his vision of modern architecture.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

A picture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - mies-van-der-rohe.com - © Werner Blaser

Family life and relationships

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was married twice and had a total of three children. His first wife was Adele Auguste Bruhn, whom he married in 1913. Together they had two daughters, Dorothea and Marianne. Adele was also artistically talented and worked as a painter. However, she died of tuberculosis in 1929.

In 1930, Mies van der Rohe married Lilly Reich, a designer and employee at the Bauhaus. She was also one of his closest collaborators and together they worked on several projects, including the designs for the Werkbund housing exhibition in Stuttgart. The couple remained married until Reich's death in 1947.

Mies van der Rohe's son, Georg, was born in 1928. He was the child of Mies van der Rohe and Adele Bruhn. Georg studied architecture and later worked as an architect in Berlin and the USA. Mies van der Rohe's grandson, Dirk Lohan, is also a well-known architect and managed the Mies van der Rohe firm in Chicago.

Mies van der Rohe also had close relationships with other artists and architects of his time. He worked closely with Le Corbusier, for example, and also had a close friendship with the architect Philip Johnson. He also moved in circles of artists and intellectuals and was a regular guest at the legendary parties of art collector Peggy Guggenheim.

Overall, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's family life was characterized by his marriages, his children and close friendships with other artists and architects.

Mies van der Rohe's interests and passions

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had a wide range of passions and interests, which were also reflected in his work as an architect.

One of his greatest passions was art. He frequently visited museums and exhibitions and was an avid collector of works of art. His love of art also influenced his work as an architect and he often regarded his buildings as works of art in themselves.

Mies van der Rohe was also a great admirer of music and often attended opera performances and concerts. Music also inspired him in his work and he tried to incorporate musical principles such as rhythm, harmony and counterpoint into his architecture.

In addition, Mies van der Rohe had a passion for traveling and spent a lot of time in different countries to be inspired by the architecture and culture. The architecture and culture of Japan in particular had a great influence on his work and he incorporated elements of Japanese aesthetics into his buildings.

Mies van der Rohe also had an interest in technology and innovation. He was a pioneer in the use of new materials such as steel and glass in architecture and constantly experimented with new construction methods. He was convinced that modernist architecture had to be based on the latest technological advances.

Lesser known facts and anecdotes

Here are some lesser-known facts and anecdotes about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe:

  • As a young man, Mies van der Rohe worked as a stonemason in his father's workshop. There he learned the basics of the building trade and developed a deep understanding of the materials and techniques of the craft.
  • Mies van der Rohe was a great fan of automobiles and owned several luxurious cars, including a Bugatti. He was also a passionate driver and often used his car to commute between his various construction sites in Europe and the USA.
  • During the Second World War, Mies van der Rohe's villa in Berlin was destroyed in a bombing raid. However, his son Georg and his family, who lived there, survived the attack unharmed.
  • Mies van der Rohe was known for his attention to detail and his high work ethic. He often worked late into the night and demanded that his employees worked just as hard as he did.
  • Although Mies van der Rohe was known for his minimalist aesthetic, he was also a great lover of flowers and gardens. In his later years, he devoted much time and attention to designing the garden of his villa in Chicago.
  • Mies van der Rohe was known for his sharp mind and quick wit. One of his most famous sayings is "Less is more", a statement that perfectly sums up his design aesthetic.
  • In 1969, Mies van der Rohe was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, by President Johnson. He died shortly afterwards at the age of 83.


These lesser-known facts and anecdotes show that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was not only a pioneer of modern architecture, but also a fascinating person with many interesting characteristics and stories.

Mies van der Rohe's contribution to modern architecture

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is one of the most influential architects of the 20th century and has had a significant impact on modern architecture with his work. His particular focus was always on clarity, reduction and functionality. He believed that the form of architecture should be the result of its function and that the beauty of a structure should be derived from its logic and construction.

Mies van der Rohe is considered one of the pioneers of modern architecture and was an important representative of the International Style. This style emphasized the rationality and functionality of architecture and was characterized by a clear design language, the use of modern materials such as steel and glass and the rejection of decoration and historical references.

Short film recommendation:

Barcelona Pavilion

One of his best-known works is the Barcelona Pavilion, which was designed for the 1929 World's Fair in Barcelona. This building is considered an icon of modern architecture and perfectly embodies Mies van der Rohe's stylistic principles. The pavilion consists of an open base defined only by thin columns and walls and is completely clad in marble, onyx and glass. Its clear design language and spatial transparency give it the appearance of a floating, light body.

Barcelona Pavillon

By Canaan - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5207139

Seagram Building in New York City

Another important work by Mies van der Rohe is the Seagram Building in New York City, which he designed together with architect Philip Johnson. The building was completed in 1958 and is a masterpiece of modern high-rise construction. It is characterized by its façade made of dark glass and bronze as well as its clear, minimalist design language and is considered a pioneer of modern high-rise architecture.

Mies van der Rohe's contribution to modern architecture lies primarily in the fact that he reduced architecture to its essential elements, making it an art form that focuses on the essentials. His works are characterized by simplicity and clarity and still have an enormous influence on the architectural world today.

Seagram Building
By Ken OHYAMA, FUNABASHI, Japan - Seagram Building, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=101432008

The Barcelona Chair

In addition to his groundbreaking architectural works, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is also known for his innovative furniture design, including the famous Barcelona Chair. The chair was originally designed for the German pavilion at the 1929 World's Fair in Barcelona and has since become a classic in modern furniture history.

The Barcelona Chair is characterized by its clear, geometric shape and the use of high-quality materials. It consists of a chrome-plated steel frame and is available with leather upholstery in various colors. The chair is not only extremely elegant, but also extremely comfortable and has been praised for its innovative comfort design.

The Barcelona Chair was an important contribution by Mies van der Rohe to modern furniture design and continues to have a major influence on the furniture industry and design in general. Its clear aesthetics and the use of high-quality materials have inspired and influenced many designers.

Today, the chair is a symbol of timeless design and is appreciated by many design lovers and collectors. The Barcelona Chair thus remains an important part of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's legacy and underlines its significance for modern art and design.

Barcelona Chair

Barcelona® Chair by Knoll - Image credit: Knoll

Other famous buildings and designs by Mies van der Rohe

  • Tugendhat House in Brno, Czech Republic (1930)
  • Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago (1956)
  • New National Gallery in Berlin (1968)
  • Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois (1951)
  • Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago (1951)
  • IBM Building in Chicago (1970)
  • Chicago Federal Center (1974)
  • Lafayette Park in Detroit (1956-1961)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. (1972)

The legacy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a formative architect of the 20th century whose work continues to influence modern architecture to this day. In addition to his important buildings and designs, he also influenced the architecture and art world in general.

Mies van der Rohe had a decisive influence on modern architecture and created a new understanding of form, material and space. His buildings such as the Barcelona Pavilion, the Seagram Building and Farnsworth House are not only milestones in modern architecture, but also symbols of a new era of construction.

His minimalist style, characterized by clear lines, geometric shapes and a reduced colour palette, became the expression of a new attitude towards design and art. Mies van der Rohe's work at Bauhaus, an influential art and design school in Germany, also had a major impact on the art world.

The influence of Mies van der Rohe on modern architecture

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's influence on modern architecture is undisputed. His work fundamentally changed the understanding of space and form and ushered in a new era of building. Mies van der Rohe's aesthetics, characterized by an obsessive love of detail and a deep understanding of materials and techniques, continue to influence the design of buildings and public spaces to this day.

Many of his ideas and concepts, such as the use of glass and steel in architecture or the idea of the "free floor plan", have become fundamental principles of modern architecture. Mies van der Rohe's work has shown that architecture can not only be functional, but also an aesthetic experience.

Mies van der Rohe's significance for the art world

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe not only left his mark on modern architecture, but also on the art world. His work has shown that aesthetics and functionality are not mutually exclusive, but should rather harmonize with each other. His minimalist style became the expression of a new attitude towards design and art.

Mies van der Rohe's work at Bauhaus also had a great influence on the art world and his buildings were not only functional, but also aesthetic masterpieces that could be perceived as works of art. Through his work, he blurred the boundaries between architecture and other art forms such as painting, sculpture and design. His legacy will therefore continue to have a major influence on the art and design world in the future.

Tragedies and personal challenges of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was an architect who not only had to overcome professional challenges, but also experienced personal tragedies.

One of the worst events in his life was the death of his wife Ada in 1944. Ada was his partner of many years and an important supporter in his life and work. Her sudden death hit Mies van der Rohe hard and left a deep void in his life.

Another heavy blow was the loss of his villa in Berlin during the Second World War. The villa was not only an important personal retreat for Mies van der Rohe and his family, but also a masterpiece of modern architecture. The loss of this building and all his personal belongings was a heavy blow for him.

Mies van der Rohe also had to deal with setbacks and criticism during his career. His concept of the "free floor plan" was considered too radical by some critics and his buildings were sometimes described as too cold and impersonal.

Despite these personal and professional challenges, Mies van der Rohe was not discouraged and continued his work with passion and dedication. He remained an influential architect until the end of his life and his legacy is still appreciated and admired today.

In conclusion...

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a major architect of the 20th century whose work had a significant impact on modern architecture. He was characterized by a clear, reduced aesthetic and perfect functionality that is still considered groundbreaking today. Mies van der Rohe's work not only shaped modern architecture, but also inspired and influenced the art world. His legacy will therefore continue to have a major influence on the art and design world in the future.

The importance of Mies van der Rohe's legacy for the future of architecture

The legacy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe continues to have a major influence on the world of architecture today. His ideas and concepts, such as the use of glass and steel in architecture or the idea of the "free floor plan", have become fundamental principles of modern architecture. His work has shown that architecture can not only be functional, but should also be an aesthetic experience. Mies van der Rohe's influence on architecture will continue to play an important role in the future, as his aesthetics and philosophy of"less is more" are still relevant and inspire many architects and designers.

Cover picture: The Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe, taken on November 9, 2013, is the work of photographer Victor Grigas (2013). Creative Commons

Discover more

  1. Read more: Saint Laurent Unveils Parisian Bookstore
    Saint Laurent Unveils Parisian Bookstore - industrial concept store

    Saint Laurent Unveils Parisian Bookstore

    In a move that continues to weave the brand's Parisian essence into its initiatives, Saint Laurent, under the guidance of creative director Anthony...
    Read more
  2. Read more: 2700 House by IGArchitects: Architectural efficiency in a small space
    2700 House by IGArchitects: Architectural efficiency in a small space - industrial concept store

    2700 House by IGArchitects: Architectural efficiency in a small space

    Located in Saitama, Japan, the "2700 House", a masterpiece of modern architecture by IGArchitects, impressively demonstrates how creative design ca...
    Read more
  3. Read more: Beton Brut and Berlin: A History of Brutalism
    Beton Brut and Berlin: A History of Brutalism - industrial concept store

    Beton Brut and Berlin: A History of Brutalism

    Cover picture: Headquarters of the French Communist Party, architect: Oscar Niemeyer - photograph by © Denis Esakov Brutalism occupies a unique p...
    Read more