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"Less is More" with Mies van der Rohe
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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (born Maria Ludwig Michael Mies). It’s quite the name, for the man who famously preached that “less is more.” Mies (for short), a legendary architect and designer, was born in Aachen, Germany in 1886. His father, a master mason, brought his son to build sites from a young age. At 15, Mies began to apprentice for several local artisans and architects, developing a lifelong skill for linear drawings.
At 19, Mies set out for the big city; Berlin. He found employment with Bruno Paul, a prominent furniture designer and part of the Art Nouveau movement. At age 21, Mies received his first architectural commission, building a suburban house on the outskirts of Berlin. The project proved consequential as his work was recognized by Berlin architect Peter Behrens, who offered him a role at his firm. While in Germany, Mies became a member of two groups at the forefront of modernism, Deutscher Werkbund and Bauhaus. He built a highly successful career in Berlin, designing residential & commercial buildings, interiors, exhibition spaces, and furniture. When the Nazis rose to power, Mies left Germany and immigrated to the U.S., settling in Chicago in 1938. Mies built a new practice and became the Director of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Mies’ minimalist ethos is obvious across all of his work, from chairs to skyscrapers. Common elements include simple rectangular forms, open and multi-functional spaces, and bold glass and steels construction. Every line is deliberate and structure and order prevail. Speaking on the idea of order, Mies said “architecture has the power to create order out of unholy confusion.” The longevity of Mies’ work, including the Barcelona chair, the Farnsworth House, and his Chicago skyscrapers are a testament to the power of simplicity.