Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, or Mies as we commonly know him, celebrated his 126th posthumous birthday yesterday. Google paid a homage to him with their new Doodle.
Widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture, Mies too like some of his post-World War I contemporaries, namely Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, tried to create a new era in the field of architecture, just like the Classic and Gothic did for their own era.
His signature style was use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define interior spaces. He strived towards an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of free-flowing open space. He loved calling his buildings "skin and bones" architecture. He sought a rational approach that would guide the creative process of architectural design. He is often associated with the aphorisms "less is more" and "God is in the details".
The self-educated Mies painstakingly studied the great philosophers and thinkers, past and present, to enhance his own understanding of the character and essential qualities of the technological times he lived in. More than perhaps any other practising pioneer of modernism, Mies mined the writings of philosophers and thinkers for ideas that were relevant to his architectural mission. Mies' architecture was guided by principles at a high level of abstraction, and his own generalized descriptions of those principles intentionally leave much room for interpretation. Yet his buildings are executed as objects of beauty and craftsmanship, and seem very direct and simple when viewed in person.
Mies worked from his studio in downtown Chicago for his entire 31-year period in America. His significant projects in the U.S. include in Chicago and the area: the residential towers of 860–880 Lake Shore Dr, the Chicago Federal Center complex, the Farnsworth House, Crown Hall and other structures at IIT; and the Seagram Building in New York. These iconic works became the prototypes for his other projects.
Mies van der Rohe died on August 17, 1969. After cremation, his ashes were buried near Chicago's other famous architects in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery. His grave is marked by a simple black slab of granite and a large Honey locust tree.