Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
The later Bauhaus director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aachen on 27 March 1886 as Ludwig Mies. Later he added his mother's maiden name to his name.

From 1887 to 1900 Mies van der Rohe learned the stonemasonry trade from his father at the Aachen cathedral building school. From 1903 to 1904 he worked as a draughtsman in an architectural office in Aachen and moved to Berlin in 1905. There he met Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer and also Le Corbusier. 1911/1912 he designed the German embassy in St. Petersburg, which he also supervised as a construction manager. In 1912 he went into business for himself and took over commissions for villas from wealthy Berliners. 

In the 1920s he was a member and founder of various avant-garde groups and co-editor of the magazine "G". He achieved world fame as an architect of modernism at the World Exhibition in Barcelona. From 1930 to 1933 he was director of the Bauhaus. 

After being banned from his profession by the National Socialists, he emigrated to the USA in 1938, opened an architectural office in Chicago and headed the architecture department at the Institute of Technology/Illinois. This was followed by an extremely creative phase until his death in Chicago on August 17, 1969. 

Work

Mies van der Rohe is - along with Gropius and Le Corbusier - one of the founders of modern architecture. Initially inspired by Karl Friedrich Schinkel's Renaissance style, he turned to Expressionism after the First World War. Innovative glass high-rises in rational style, also known as "skin and bone architecture", were created, which gave new impetus to both contemporary and later architecture. He also worked as an "occasional furniture designer" and designed his legendary cantilever chair in 1927. 

In 1928/1929 he created the German Pavilion for the World Exhibition in Barcelona, thereby establishing his concept of "flowing space" on an international level. It was based on the idea of an open floor plan in which the walls were detached from their supporting function. A famous building from this period is the "Tugendhat-Villa" in Brno.

During his time in the USA, internationally renowned works such as Lafayette Park (1955-1963) and Battery Park Apartments (1957-1958) in New York were created. In 1968, he also returned to Germany and designed the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

Design and Philosophy

Mies van der Rohe's artistic guidelines were functionality and clear forms. His favourite materials were steel, glass and concrete. He introduced the modular construction method and forced open spatial compositions, which allowed free insights into the buildings. His creative principle: "Less is more".

The rational and pragmatic style of the artists of this period was certainly shaped by the enormous technical, scientific and social changes. These changes could no longer be expressed in architecture with ornamental coverings or historical recourse. Another turning point was the experience of the First World War. 

Early on, he became interested in philosophical and scientific topics as well as the theoretical problems of his time, which were extensively discussed among Berlin artists at the time. Mies van der Rohe took an active part in debates and lectures and represented the position of New Objectivity. But he never devoted himself to pure functionality. Under the title "The New Era", shortly before his appointment as Bauhaus director, he pleaded for a return to "values" and "spirit", thus clearly deviating from the purely "scientific world view" of many of his fellow combatants.

Bauhaus phase

With the appointment of Mies van der Rohe as the new Bauhaus director, the principle of pure purpose, pure functionality, as represented by his predecessor Hannes Meyer, was softened. Mies van der Rohe was much more in favour of implementing a new beauty in architecture that went beyond the purely functional dictate. He now increasingly oriented the school towards the aesthetic and sensual principle. 

But it was also a time of political upheaval and it was not only for architecture that a difficult time began in Germany. By moving the Bauhaus school from Dessau to Berlin, he was able to prevent its closure for a short time until 1933, but the proximity of the Bauhaus to some socialist ideas as well as the entire cultural concept were a thorn in the side of the Nazis. And so the new rulers closed the Bauhaus and banned Mies van der Rohe from a profession, despite actions such as entry into the Reich Chamber of Culture or the signing of a call by artists to support the new Reich Chancellor in 1934, which later brought Mies van der Rohe the accusation of opportunism.