|was born in aachen, germany, on march 27, 1886.|
after having trained with his father, a master stonemason.
at 19 he moved to berlin, where he worked for bruno paul,
the art nouveau architect and furniture designer.
at 20 he received his first independent commission,
to plan a house for a philosopher (alois riehl).
in 1908 he began working for the architect
peter behrens. he studied the architecture of the
prussian karl friedrich schinkel and frank lloyd wright.
he opened his own office in berlin in 1912,
and married in 1913.
after world war I, he began studying the skyscraper
and designed two innovative steel-framed towers
encased in glass. one of them was the friedrichstrasse
skyscraper, designed in 1921 for a competition.
it was never built, although it drew critical praise and
foreshadowed his skyscraper designs of the late 40s and 50s.
in 1921, when his marriage ended, he changed
his name, adding the dutch 'van der' and his mother’s
maiden name, 'rohe': ludwig mies became ludwig mies
van der rohe.
in the 20’s he was active in a number of the berlin
avant-garde circles ( the magazine 'G' and organizations such
as the 'novembergruppe', 'zehner ring', and 'arbeitsrat für kunst')
that supported modern art and architecture along with artists
like hans richter, el lissitzky, and theo van doesburg,
among others. major contributions to the architectural
philosophies of the late 1920s and 1930s he made as
artistic director of the werkbund-sponsored weissenhof
project, a model housing colony in stuttgart.
the modern apartments and houses were designed by
leading european architects, including a block by mies.
in 1927 he designed one of his most famous buildings,
/ the german pavilion at the international exposition in barcelona
in 1929. this small hall, known as the barcelona
pavilion (for which he also designed the famous chrome
and leather 'barcelona chair'), had a flat roof supported by
columns. the pavilion’s internal walls, made of glass and marble,
could be moved around as they did not support the structure.
the concept of fluid space with a seamless flow between
indoors and outdoors was further explored in other projects
he designed for decades to come.
mies began working with lilly reich, who remained his
collaborator and companion for more than ten years.
in 1930, mies met new york architect philip johnson,
who included several of his projects in
MoMA’s first architecture exhibition held in 1932, 'modern
architecture: international exhibition', thanks to which
mies’s work began to be known in the united states.
in the30s, none of his designs were built due to the
sweeping economic and political changes overtaking
germany. he was director of the bauhaus school from
1930 until its disbandment in 1933, shut down under
pressure from the new nazi government.
he moved to the united states in 1937.
from 1938 to 1958 he was head of the architecture
department at the armour institute of technology in
chicago, later renamed the illinois institute of technology.
in the 40s, was asked to design a new campus for the
school, a project in which he continued to refine his
steel-and-glass style. he had also formed a new relationship
with chicago artist lora marx that would last for the rest of his
by 1944, he had become an american citizen and was
well established professionally.
in this period he designed one of his most famous
buildings, a small weekend retreat outside chicago,
a transparent box framed by eight exterior steel
columns. / the ‘farnsworth house’ is one of the most
radically minimalist houses ever designed.
its interior, a single room, is subdivided by partitions
and completely enclosed in glass.
in the 50s he continued to develop this concept of open,
flexible space on a much larger scale:
in 1953, he developed the convention hall, innovative was
the structural system that spanned large distances.
during this period he also realized his dream of building a
/ the ' twin towers' in chicago were completed in 1951, followed
by other high-rises in chicago, new york, detroit, toronto...
culminating in 1954 with / the 'seagram' building in new york,
hailed as a masterpiece of skyscraper design.
for his career he achieved in 1959 the
'orden pour le merite' (germany) and in 1963 the
'presidential medal of freedom' (USA).
in 1962, his career came full-circle when he was invited to
design the 'new national gallery' in berlin.
his design for this building achieved his long-held vision of
an exposed steel structure that directly connected interior
space to the landscape.
he returned to berlin several times while the gallery was under
construction, but was unable to attend the opening in 1968.
he died in chicago on august 17, 1969.
mies van der rohe in his apartment on
east pearson street, chicago, 1964
© werner blaser
courtesy whitney museum of american art
mies over model of crown hall
cortesy the illinois institute of technology
mies van der rohe sketching, 1960s
courtesy chicago historical society
courtesy the illinois institute of technology
|see mies van der rohe|
for more info on the work of mies van der rohe:
the illinois institute of technology (IIT) http://www.iit.edu
IIT's college of architecture http://www.iit.edu/colleges/arch/
new york skyscrapers http://www.greatgridlock.net/NYC