Mies Van Der Rohe, Ludwig

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was one of the most influential architects of the 1900's. He is known simply as Mies, and the type of building he designed—a simple and elegant "glass box"—is called Miesian. Today, Miesian skyscrapers dominate the skylines of cities everywhere. In his designs for skyscrapers and other structures, Mies eliminated surface decoration to expose a building's main elements: a skeleton of steel beams filled in with rectangles of glass. This concept, which he expressed in the phrase "less is more," is a key part of the style of modern architecture known as the international style.

Mies was born on March 27, 1886, in Aachen, Germany. He studied under well-known architects and produced interesting designs. By the end of World War I (1914-18), he had already turned his attention to designing glass skyscrapers.

Mies was dedicated to the philosophy of simple, functional design as taught by the Bauhaus, a German design school. He served as director of the Bauhaus from 1930 to 1933. Several years later, he immigrated to the United States and became director of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. While at IIT, he designed a master plan for the campus featuring spacious buildings with interiors that could be rearranged easily to accommodate changing functions. Mies spoke of this concept of design as "universal space." His Crown Hall (1955) on the IIT campus is a good example of this approach.

Other examples of Mies's later work are the Lake Shore Drive Apartments (1951) in Chicago; the Seagram Building (1958) in New York City, designed with Philip Johnson; and the New National Gallery (1968) in Berlin. Mies died on August 17, 1969.

Howard E. Wooden
Director Emeritus, The Wichita Art Museum

 

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