Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was an American architect who was born in Germany. Mies was how he was addressed most of the time. He is considered as a modern architecture pioneer. His elegantly simple rectilinear shapes exemplified the international style of architecture. His works illustrate his famed idea of ‘less is more,’ demonstrating frank use of cutting-edge materials like industrial steel and plate glass, as well as his extraordinary sense of proportion and meticulous attention to detail. He referred to his structures as “skin and bones” architecture. He was looking for a method to guide the creative process of architectural design. He developed a clear and simple architectural style for the twenty-first century. His works reflect the spirit of the current period.

Childhood and Adolescence

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aachen, Germany, on March 27, 1886. He aided his father, a master mason who ran a modest stonecutter’s business. Mies lacked any official architectural education.

At the age of 15, he worked as an apprentice under many Aachen architects, sketching out architectural plans. This exercise honed his linear drawing skills, which he would later employ to create some of the most beautiful architectural designs.

He began working as an apprentice to Bruno Paul, a well-known furniture designer, when he was 19 years old.
His first construction job was a typical suburban home. Peter Behrens, Germany’s most advanced architect at the time, was astonished by its flawless execution. He offered Mies, who was 21 years old at the time, a job in his office.

He joined the ‘Deutscher Werkbund,’ an English-German Craftsmen’s Association. He made friends with like-minded artists and craftspeople while he was there. A ‘Gesamtkultur’ was born from the Werkbund’s members’ idea of a new design tradition based on the use of machine-made objects, including machine-made buildings.

The so-called International Style of modern architecture arose from these concepts. Behrens, Hendrik Petrus Berlage, a pioneer of modern Dutch architecture, and German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel impacted his thought process.

A Career of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Mies served in the army during World War I, overseeing the construction of bridges and roads in the Balkans.
In 1918, he returned to Berlin, where he became a member of several modernist architectural groups and organized numerous exhibitions.

He did not, however, have any initiatives in mind. The only structure he built during this time was a memorial to dead communist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, which was razed by the Nazis in 1926.

During these years, his most important work was still on paper. These theoretical studies, which resulted in a collection of drawings and sketches presently housed at the ‘New York Museum of Modern Art,’ foreshadow the all of his later work.

The Friedrichstrasse Office Building, completed in 1919, was one of the first steel-and-glass structures.
‘The Glass Skyscraper’ (1921) was based on his concept of a glass skyscraper with a translucent front that shows the steel structure beneath. Other theoretical research looked into the advantages and disadvantages of concrete and brick construction.

In 1927, he organized the first ‘Werkbund display’ of postwar housing demonstration projects in Weissenhoft. For the exposition, 16 of Europe’s leading modernist architects, including Le Corbusier and Mies himself, designed various houses and apartment structures totaling 33 units.

The International Style was born when the many architectural groups of the early postwar years converged into a single movement, as shown in this exhibition. The exposition was a critical success, and Europe’s wealthy began to order new villas, such as Mies’ Tugendhat House (1930) in Brno, Czech Republic.

Mies was named director of the Bauhaus, an avant-garde art school, in 1930. Bauhaus was primarily concerned with developing new forms of expression in architecture, painting, and sculpture. The school had relocated from Weimar to Dessau in 1925, when he enrolled.

He quickly earned a reputation as a tough yet excellent teacher. The institution was in constant conflict, with Nazi attacks from the outside and left-wing student revolts from within. In Berlin, he attempted to run the school. He did, however, close the institution before the Nazis could do so in late 1933.

Mies arrived to the United States four years later, in 1937, and became the director of the ‘School of Architecture at Chicago’s Armor Institute’ (later the Illinois Institute of Technology). For the next 20 years, he was the school’s director.

The school had become world-renowned for its strict teaching methods as well as its campus, which he planned in 1939–41, by the time he resigned in 1958. Campus buildings with a cubic simplicity might simply be changed to the school’s various demands.

Following WWII, he translated his dream design of steel skeletons clad in glass curtain wall façades into large-scale projects including a number of high-rise buildings. The ‘Promontory Apartments’ (1949), ‘Lake Shore Drive Apartments’ (1949–51) in Chicago, and the ‘Seagram Building’ (1956–58) in New York City, a towering office building with a glass, bronze, and marble facade that Mies designed with Philip Johnson, are among these important projects.

During this time, he also built the ‘Farnsworth House’ in Plano, Illinois (finished 1951), the ‘Robert McCormick House’ in Elmhurst, Illinois (completed 1952; now part of the Elmhurst Art Museum), and the ‘Morris Greenwald House’ in Weston, Illinois (completed 1955).

In the 1960s, he continued to design beautiful structures, including ‘the Bacardi Building’ in Mexico City (1961), ‘Charles Center office building’ in Baltimore (1963), ‘the Federal Center’ in Chicago (1964), ‘the Public Library’ in Washington, D.C. (1967), and ‘the Gallery of the Twentieth Century’ (later known as the New National Gallery) in Berlin, which was dedicated in 1968. After his death in 1972, ‘The IBM Building’ in Chicago was completed.

Major Projects of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

With the design of the ‘Friedrichstrasse Office Building,’ he made his mark on the architectural world. Mies’ design remains one of the most important structures in twentieth-century architecture, despite the fact that it was never completed.

It was the first skyscraper built entirely of glass and steel, following the Miesian philosophy of’skin and bones’ architecture. Mies defied various guidelines in order to offer a novel concept to the committee for the Friedrichstrasse architecture competition. The design did not win or even gain an honorable mention. However, this form has grown to dominate corporate architecture decades later.

The German Pavilion (also known as the Barcelona Pavilion) was commissioned by the German government for the ‘1929 International Exposition’ in Barcelona and was his most famous interwar project (demolished 1930; reconstructed 1986).

It included a series of magnificent spaces on a 175-by-56-foot travertine platform, half of which was covered by a thin canopy and part of which was open to the elements, supported by chromed steel columns.

Walls of honey-colored onyx, green Tinian marble, and frosted glass demarcated the rooms, which featured nothing except a pool, a nude statue, and a few of the chairs he had built for the pavilion. The Barcelona chairs, or cantilevered steel chairs, became an immediate classic of 20th-century furniture design.

Achievements & Awards of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

The ‘Royal Gold Medal’ was awarded to Mies by the ‘Royal Institute of British Architects’ in 1959.
In 1960, he was awarded the ‘AIA Gold Medal’ by the American Institute of Architects.

The same institute awarded him ‘The Twenty-five Year Award’ three times (in 1976, 1981, and 1984) for buildings and structures that have’stood the test of time for 25 to 35 years’ and demonstrate architecture of lasting significance.
In 1963, the US President awarded him the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom.’

Personal History and Legacy

Mies married Ada Bruhn, the daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur, in 1913. The couple had three daughters before divorcing in 1918.

He fathered a son outside of his marriage while serving in the military in 1917.
He began dating designer Lilly Reich in 1925, but the relationship ended when he came to the United States.

Lora Marx, an artist, was his constant companion from 1940 until his death. He also had a love relationship with Mary Callery, a sculptor and art collector.
He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He was also diagnosed with pneumonia in 1969. He died in Chicago two weeks later, on August 19, 1969.

After establishing himself as an architect, Mies added his mother’s surname, ‘van der Rohe.’

Estimated Net Worth

Ludwig is one of the wealthiest architects and one of the most well-known. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.