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Mies van der Rohe, Modern Architect

(1886-1969)

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Black and white photo of elderly white man, smiling, architect Mies van der Rohe, c. 1960s

Mies van der Rohe c. 1960s.

Photo by Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images
Pencil sketches of chairs designed by Mies van der Rohe in Chicago

Sketches of chairs photo by Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Black and white photo of the hands of architect Mies van der Rohe sketching a skyscraper

The hands of the architect Mies van der Rohe as he sketches a building, Chicago, c.1960s. A cup of coffee is visible on the desk in the background.

Photo by Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Believing that less is more, Mies van der Rohe designed rational, minimalist skyscrapers that set the standard for modernist design.

Born:

March 27, 1886 in Aachen, Germany

Died:
August 17, 1969

Full Name:
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Adopted his mother's maiden name, van der Rohe, when he opened his practice in 1912.

Education:

  • Worked in the office of Bruno Paul in Berlin
  • Spent four years in the studio of Peter Behrens

Buildings by Mies van der Rohe:

Furniture Designs by Mies van der Rohe:

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Quotes:

About Mies van der Rohe:

The United States has a love-hate relationship with Mies van der Rohe. Some say that he stripped architecture of all humanity, creating cold, sterile and unlivable environments. Others praise his work, saying he created architecture in its most pure form.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe began his career in his family stone-carving business in Germany. He never received any formal architectural training, but when he was a teenager he worked as a draftsman for several architects. Moving to Berlin, he found work in the offices of architect and furniture designer Bruno Paul and industrial architect Peter Behrens.

Early in his life, Mies van der Rohe began experimenting with steel frames and glass walls. He was director of the Bauhaus School of Design from 1930 until it disbanded in 1933. He moved to the United States in 1937 and for twenty years (1938-1958) he was Director of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Mies van der Rohe taught his taught students at IIT to build first with wood, then stone, and then brick before progressing to concrete and steel. He believed that architects must completely understand their materials before they can design.

Mies van der Rohe was not the first architect to practice simplicity in design, but he carried the ideals of rationalism and minimalism to new levels. His glass-walled Farnsworth House near Chicago stirred controversy and legal battles. His bronze and glass Seagram Building in New York City (designed in collaboration with Philip Johnson) is considered America's first glass skyscraper. And, his philosophy that "less is more" became a guiding principle for architects in the mid-twentieth century.

Skyscrapers around the world are modeled after designs by Mies van der Rohe.

Books About the Architect:

  • Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography by Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst, University Of Chicago Press; Revised New edition 2012
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  • Mies Van Der Rohe by Claire Zimmerman, Taschen Basic Architecture Series, 2006
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  • Mies Van Der Rohe At Work by Peter Carter, Phaidon Press, 1999
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