Mies Van der Rohe (1886 – 1969)
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a pioneering architect, was a central figure in shaping the International Style of modern architecture, alongside renowned contemporaries like Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. His iconic status in 20th-century architecture and design is underscored by his famous mottos, including ‘less is more’ and ‘God is in the details.’ Mies’ architectural masterpieces, such as the Barcelona Pavilion, the Seagram Building, and the Farnsworth House, are celebrated landmarks of the 20th century.
Born as Maria Ludwig Michael Mies in Germany, his early passion for architecture was influenced by his stonemason father. Without formal architectural training, he gained practical experience through various apprenticeships in Berlin after completing secondary school. His career advanced when he worked with furniture designer Bruno Paul and secured his first independent house design commission. Mies’ exceptional talent led him to architect Peter Behrens’ studio, where he collaborated with future luminaries like Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. Although the Weimar Republic fostered creativity after World War I, Mies’ significant works from this period remained on paper.
Driven by a quest for a new architectural vision aligned with modernity, Mies developed avant-garde ideas that revolutionized the built environment. His style emphasized simplicity, industrial materials like steel and glass, and unadorned interiors. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Mies’ reputation soared, and he briefly served as the director of the Bauhaus, an avant-garde art school. In 1937, he relocated to Chicago, where he continued to design, build, and educate. He played a pivotal role as the head of the College of Architecture at the Armour Institute in Chicago, shaping both the curriculum and the campus.
After the upheaval of World War II, Mies received numerous commissions, enabling him to create large-scale projects, particularly pioneering steel-and-glass skyscrapers. Notable works include the Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago and the Seagram Building in New York City. In the 1960s, he continued to design public centers, urban-renewal projects, libraries, and offices across the Americas, Mexico, and Europe. Despite his esteemed reputation, Mies lived alone in his spacious Chicago apartment by Lake Michigan until his passing in 1969.