A philosopher at heart and an architect by design, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, popularly known as Mies, cut an imposing figure in the world of architecture. Born in Aachen, Germany in 1886, Ludwig worked under the German architect, furniture designer and interior designer Bruno Paul at the young age of 19. This would later be his initiation into the world of fame. A steady series of associations with names like Peter Behrens, Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier lent him the space to experiment in minimalist architecture, an effort at de-cluttering classical architectural styles.
Ludwig’s fascination with simplicity and wide open spaces served as a major role in helping him create his signature style. It was his often quoted maxim “less is more” that immortalised him as a truly avant-garde designer with his sights on something refreshing for the modern era. As the curtains fell on World War I, it heralded freedom not just from German domination but from constricted architectural designs as well.
The Barcelona Pavilion, one of his finest designs, is a true testimony to his love for minimalism and free-flowing open space. Designed for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, it saw the use of modern materials like marble, red onyx, tinted glass and travertine in a bare structure with just a sculpture (George Kolbe’s Alba) and the ‘Barcelona Chair’ for company. A unique fusion of simplicity and modernism!
Next Ludwig began experimenting with materials like industrial steel and plate glass to establish his architectural innovativeness. This resulted in the design and construction of the Farnsworth House between 1945 and 51, a one-room weekend retreat commissioned by Dr. Edith Farnsworth to dabble in her hobbies. The minimal structure, replete with exposed steel columns and floor to ceiling glass facades, became the subject of both praise and criticism, later being recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 2006. For all the anti-modernist critics labelling the house as devoid of conventional warmth, it was widely recognized as a masterpiece of modern architecture. And Ludwig went on to receive the presidential Medal of Freedom too, for his contributions to American architecture.
One of Ludwig’s biggest ambitions was to design and construct a glass skyscraper, a dream that came to life in the form of the iconic Seagram Building in 1958. Standing at 515 feet and 38 stories, it was Ludwig’s greatest contribution to corporate modernism and apparently the costliest. In spite of bagging the worst Energy Star rating in New York, the Seagram Building, which is all steel frame and glass walls, did become the highpoint of corporate aesthetics with a functional approach. It even became a subject of intrigue and fascination, appearing in a documentary on the social life of people around the plaza, the film Scrooged and a reference in a musical.
Image: Seagram Building
Photo Credit – Arch Daily
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