Mies van der Rohe

United States • 1886−1969
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (German: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, March 27, 1886, Aachen - August 17, 1969, Chicago) - German-American architect, teacher, one of the founders of the international style in architecture.

Features of the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: The architecture of Mies van der Rohe is now difficult to call spectacular and unique, it is difficult to distinguish one of his skyscraper from metal and glass from another. At the same time, not one rating of the most significant architects in history is complete without the name Misa. Because he is one of several prophets of modern architecture, the so-called international style, which offered universal minimalistic solutions for any city on the planet, refused cultural and national features in architecture. Of the three pillars, the founders of the international style (Le Corbusier,Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe) it was the latter who chose glass and solid glass facades as the best solution for several issues at once: to provide a person with a constant visual connection with the outside world and ideally fit the ascetic building that reflects the surrounding world into any natural or urban landscape.

Famous buildings of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Farnsworth House, German Pavilion (Barcelona), building of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Sigram Building, New National Gallery (Berlin).

The son of a mason, who did not receive an architectural education, the father of three daughters, who lived in only marriage for only 7 years, and 4 of them spent in the war. Director Bauhaus, who managed the school for only 2 years and made a difficult decision to close it. Silent and closed bachelor in an unchanging bowler hat or homburg, smoking cigars one by one and collecting a collection of paintingsPaul Klee and Vasily Kandinsky. He is the author of training programs and the head of the architectural department at Illinois University of Technology, who has trained the younger generation of American urban planners for 30 years. The apolitical German who defined the architectural appearance of America. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is an architect-philosopher who designed expensive, grandiose buildings with one goal: to make the walls of buildings as permeable as possible for the outside world, to turn the line that separates the interior from the outside into a necessary, but almost imperceptible convention. His most famous professional motto is: “Less is more.”

Made of stone

Ludwig Mies was born in Aachen, a German town on the border with the Netherlands, into a mason's family. As a teenager, he mastered the craft of his father and could continue the family tradition, but already the fifteen-year-old Ludwig showed such mastery in pencil that it was decided to develop his artistic talent. Mies did not want to get an education - he acquired all the knowledge about architecture in the workshops of practicing architects. In Aachen, he designed ornaments for future lavishly decorated buildings for local craftsmen, and at age 19 he went to Berlin to look for work in the capital's architectural bureau.

Three years Mies gained experience, and his first project immediately attracted the attention of the most famous and progressive architect Peter Behrens. This Behrens turned out to be one of the most sensitive and far-sighted bosses, because at the same time he invited three young architects who had not yet shown themselves to work in the studio, who in just a couple of decades would determine all the development paths of world architecture: Ludwig Mies, Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. Misa’s life was gaining fullness, the future seemed unconditionally happy and reliable: he had already taken up entire projects with Behrens, he married Adele Brun, a wealthy heiress of a prominent industrialist, and two of his daughters were born one after another. Until in 1915 he was called up for war. He commanded units in Frankfurt, in Berlin, and the last years of the war in Eastern Europe. Four war years changed Misa - now he did not understand what to work on, how to remain a loving father and husband, how to live. After a long depression and a protracted family crisis, he divorced Ada, left her daughters and began to gradually return to life. And the first thing he took was a pseudonym: he added to his name the maiden name of his mother Rohe, along with the aristocratic Dutch van der.

From the ash

Misa is often remembered as the third director of the famous German Bauhaus school, who succeeded the previous leader Hannes Mayer and literally saved the school from the bad reputation of a breeding ground for Bolshevik sentiments. The mis-political nature of Mis was an effective means of quick action, but, alas, it worked for a very short time. He united the workshops, combed the training programs, turning them into traditional ones, canceled the famous foreshort for freshmen, developed by Johannes Itten, personally conducted conversations with each student and excluded the radical ones. But this did not save the Bauhaus from closure when the National Socialist Party came to power in Dessau. Mies van der Rohe bought with his own money the building of the former factory in Berlin - and moved the school there. Before the first search. In August 1933, the Bauhaus was closed.

But the truth is that Mies van der Rohe was not an ideologist and author of the Bauhaus program, he was not a Bauhaus man. Prior to being invited to this position, he managed to become a famous and sought-after architect, a member of prominent architectural societies, and in 1927 he led the construction of the Weissenhof exhibition village as vice president of Deutscher Werkbund (German Labor Federation). It was an international joint project of 16 young innovative architects who designed and built several residential buildings and demonstrated their own vision of the architecture of the future. Mies became so famous and revered so that a year later he received a grand order: the design of the German pavilion at the international exhibition in Barcelona. He designed the reception room with glass walls and, in collaboration with the designer Lily Reich, designed furniture that would bring him solid money all his life. The famous Barcelona chair is still being produced - it costs $ 6,000.
In 1930, a man came to the post of director of the Bauhaus who did not need to earn money, become famous, add an item to his professional portfolio, or form a personal vision of the architecture of the future. He had it all. But already by 1937, Mies realized that in Germany he had no future. In a country that is returning to traditional German materials and forms, where an oak chair is the best chair, nobody dares to put its metal Barcelona in houses. And then what about glass skyscrapers.

Made of glass and metal

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe did not know English, tried several times to participate in competitions for important architectural projects, for a very long time hoping to get along with the new regime. He left Germany with one of the last objectionable National Socialist authorities. This delay will once again raise suspicions of his sympathy for the regime and of attempts to cooperate. Only in 1938 he accepted the proposal to head the architectural department at the Armor Institute of Technology (now Illinois) and designed the campus here. It is no exaggeration to say that he released several generations of American architects.

54-year-old Mies settled in a traditional six-story brick house in Chicago and fell in love. Laura Marx has been a sculptor and since 1940, Misa's lover and closest person in America. They never lived together and never married, but were close until his death.
30 years in America - the time of the triumph of Mies van der Rohe, the time of the main (expensive and defiantly spectacular) projects, the time of glass and metal. He is building a private villa for the Chicago doctor Edith Francoisort - with glass walls through which the interior is fully visible. He designs the 38-story Sigrem skyscraper in Manhattan in New York - and this confirms the unspoken style of building the city for several decades to come. Creates a project of the Federal Center of Chicago: three skyscrapers in which the court, the administrative center and the central post office are located. And in this city with plans for the future, too, everything becomes clear.

While America was built up on the projects of Mies and his followers, students, he appeared less and less on construction sites and in the office of his bureau, more and more often entrusted control of projects to employees. The last few years of his life, he suffered from arthritis, and then from painful cancer. He could no longer read because of the rapidly progressing squint - now Laura was reading aloud to him. Weakened by serious illnesses, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe died of pneumonia when he was 83 years old. Some of the buildings he designed will be completed and opened for a long time after his death.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
Go to biography


View all publications


All exhibitions of the artist
View all artist's artworks
Whole feed