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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Born in Aachen as Ludwig Mies (1886–1969), he later took his mother’s name, van der Rohe, in an altered form. Young Mies van der Rohe trained and worked with architect Bruno Paul, who also designed furniture for Thonet. At the age of 22, he joined the studio of Peter Behrens in Neubabelsberg, where he met Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. After initially beginning as a mansion architect, he ultimately became famous through his spectacular plans for a steel and glass skyscraper with curtain façade on Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse in Berlin. Mies, as friends, colleagues and students called him, developed into the lead protagonist for innovative steel and glass architecture. With his flowing rooms based on open ground plans and elegant furniture designs, he became the decisive trailblazer of a comprehensive stylistic transformation. In 1925, he took over the art direction for the Werkbund exhibition “The Dwelling” in Stuttgart, which became world-famous as Weissenhof Estate in 1927. In 1929, he designed the Villa Tugendhat in Brno, a UNESCO world cultural heritage site since 2001, and the German pavilion for the World Exposition in Barcelona. In 1930, recommended by Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe was appointed director of the Bauhaus in Dessau. After it was closed by the Dessau City Parliament in 1932, Mies transformed the Bauhaus into a private school and moved it to Berlin. The Bauhaus in Berlin was raided by the Gestapo in April of 1933, and in July of that year, Mies van der Rohe initiated the self-dissolution of the Bauhaus in Berlin, most likely to also prevent the Nazi state from taking control of it.

 

After several building projects in Germany largely failed, Mies van der Rohe followed a call to move to Chicago in 1938 and became director of the architecture department at Armour Institute. His buildings for the university campus, which was later renamed Illinois Institute of Technology, had a formative effect – as did his teaching: He is considered the founder of the “Second Chicago School”, a group of functionalist high-rise architects. His steel skeleton buildings with large-scale glazing, including the Seagram Building in New York (1958) and the Nationalgalerie in Berlin (1968), are milestones in modern architecture. His design principle “less is more” made Ludwig Mies van der Rohe one of the most influential architects in the world. His furniture designs – including the striking cantilever armchair S 533 for Thonet, which is characterised by striking, generous curves – were mostly created in connection with his buildings. His design partners included Lilly Reich and Sergius Ruegenberg. Many of his furniture designs have iconic qualities that go far beyond their primary purpose of use.

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