Behind the Artist: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
by J. Parker
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 wrote architectural history with his buildings like the Barcelona Pavilion or the Seagram Building in New York City ?
In this magazine article we want to deal intensively with 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 in Berlin as a young architect and which ideas and concepts led him to have a decisive influence on modern architecture. We will look at his most important works and understand how he managed to combine timeless beauty and the highest functionality.
But we also want to get to know Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as a person - his thoughts, his feelings, his passions and his tragedies . How did he live, what inspired him and what drove him? We will delve into his legacy and wonder 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.
Life and Career of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born on March 27, 1886 in Aachen . His father was a stonemason and Mies van der Rohe grew up in a creative environment that later served him well as an architect.
After attending secondary school, he began training as a stonemason and later as a bricklayer. But 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. There he also 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 advocated the connection between art and industry. There he met well-known 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 made the architecture department 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 Armor Institute of Technology in Chicago and later at the School of Architecture of the Illinois Institute of Technology . In the United States he designed some of his most famous buildings such as the Farnsworth House and the Seagram Building in New York City.
Mies van der Rohe's early career and his involvement in the Deutscher Werkbund as well as the development of the Bauhaus shaped his understanding of architecture and laid the foundation 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.
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. They had two daughters together, Dorothea and Marianne. Adele was also artistically gifted and worked as a painter. However, she died of tuberculosis in 1929.
Then, in 1930, Mies van der Rohe married Lilly Reich, a designer and collaborator at the Bauhaus. She was also one of his closest collaborators and together they worked on several projects, including the designs for the Werkbund's 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 ran the Mies van der Rohe firm in Chicago.
Mies van der Rohe also had close relationships with other artists and architects of his time. For example, he worked closely with Le Corbusier and also had a close friendship with the architect Philip Johnson. He also frequented artistic and intellectual circles and was a regular guest at art collector Peggy Guggenheim's legendary parties.
Overall, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's family life was shaped by his marriages, his children and close friendships with other artists and architects.
Interests and passions of Mies van der Rohe
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 viewed 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 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 travel 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 major influence on his work and he integrated elements of Japanese aesthetics into his buildings.
Mies van der Rohe also had an interest in technology and innovation. He pioneered the use of new materials such as steel and glass in architecture and was constantly experimenting with new construction methods. He was convinced that modernist architecture must be based on the latest technological advances.
Less 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 trade.
- Mies van der Rohe was a big fan of automobiles and owned several luxury cars including a Bugatti. He was also a passionate driver and often used his car to commute between his various job sites in Europe and the US.
- During World War II, Mies van der Rohe's villa in Berlin was destroyed in a bomb attack. 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 strong work ethic. He often worked late into the night and required his employees to work 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 landscaping the garden of his Chicago mansion.
- 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, President Johnson presented Mies van der Rohe with the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. He died shortly thereafter 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 human being with many interesting qualities 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 his works have had a significant impact on modern architecture. His special focus was always on clarity, reduction and functionality. He believed that the form of an architecture should be the result of its function and that the beauty of a structure should derive from its logic and construction.
Mies van der Rohe is considered one of the pioneers of modern building and was an important representative of the International Style. This style emphasized the rationality and functionality of the architecture and was characterized by a clear language of form, the use of modern materials such as steel and glass, and the rejection of decoration and historical references.
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One of his most famous works is the Barcelona Pavilion, designed for the 1929 Barcelona World Fair. This building is considered an icon of modern architecture and perfectly embodies Mies van der Rohe's stylistic principles. Consisting of an open plan defined only by thin columns and walls, the pavilion is clad entirely in marble, onyx and glass. With its clear design language and spatial transparency, it looks like a floating, light body.
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 with architect Philip Johnson. The building was completed in 1958 and is a masterpiece of modern high-rise construction. It is characterized by its facade made of dark glass and bronze as well as its clear, reduced design language and is considered a pioneer of modern high-rise architecture.
Mies van der Rohe's contribution to modern architecture is primarily 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 have had an enormous influence on the world of architecture to this day.
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 chromed steel frame and is available with leather upholstery in different colours. 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 still has a major influence on the furniture industry and design in general today. Its clean aesthetics and use of 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 importance for modern art and design.
Barcelona®-Chair by Knoll - Picture quote: Knoll
More 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 Chicago (1951)
- IBM Building Chicago (1970)
- Chicago Federal Center (1974)
- Lafayette Park in Detroit (1956-1961)
- Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library in Washington, DC (1972)
The legacy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a formative architect of the 20th century whose work still influences modern architecture today. In addition to his significant buildings and designs, he has 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 or the Farnsworth House are not only milestones in modern architecture, but also symbols of a new era in building.
His minimalist style, characterized by clean lines, geometric shapes and a reduced color 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 aesthetic, characterized by an obsessive love of detail and a deep understanding of materials and techniques, still influences the design of buildings and public spaces today.
Many of his ideas and concepts, such as the use of glass and steel in architecture or the idea of the "free floor plan", became fundamental principles of modern architecture. Mies van der Rohe's work showed that architecture can not only be functional, but also an aesthetic experience.
Mies van der Rohe's impact on the art world
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe not only shaped modern architecture, but also the art world. His work has shown that aesthetics and functionality are not mutually exclusive, but rather should harmonize with one another. His minimalist style became the expression of a new attitude towards design and art.
Mies van der Rohe's work on Bauhaus also had a major impact 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 has blurred the lines between architecture and other art forms such as painting, sculpture and design. His legacy will therefore continue to have a major impact on the art and design world.
Tragedies and Personal Challenges of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was an architect who not only faced professional challenges but also experienced personal tragedies.
One of the most devastating events in his life was the death of his wife Ada in 1944. Ada was his longtime partner 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 stroke of fate 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 "free floor plan" concept 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 to the end of his life and his legacy is still cherished and admired today.
This lets us conclude...
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was an important 20th-century architect whose work had a significant impact on modern architecture. It was characterized by clear, reduced aesthetics 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 impact on the art and design world.
The importance of Mies van der Rohe's legacy for the future of architecture
The legacy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe still has a major impact 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", became 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 be important in the future, as his aesthetics and philosophy of " less is more " are still relevant and inspire many architects and designers.
Cover photo: Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe, taken on November 9, 2013, is the work of photographer Victor Grigas (2013). Creative Commons