Mies Van Der Rohe

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was arguably the most important architect and designer of the 20th century. He began his career as a studio assistant to Peter Behrens in 1908, and spent four years learning structural techniques and honing his aesthetic sensibility with Behrens, who was the head of the Arts and Crafts school in Düsseldorf, Germany. Mies's professional connection with Behrens led to him taking over the Bauhaus in 1930, making him the second of Behrens's apprentices to head the influential school (the first was Walter Gropius, who founded the Bauhaus).

Mies van der Rohe in Barcelona

In the meantime, Mies van der Rohe created some of the most enduring and important buildings of his career. After working on G magazine and forming many of his most seminal ideas in the early 1920s, Mies designed the Barcelona pavilion and the Barcelona chairs for the 1929 World's Fair in Barcelona. The Barcelona pavilion, during the six months that it existed, was the one building in the worlds fair to house original furniture, and was also the temporary home of the King of Spain.

Though the Pavilion was dismantled, the Barcelona chairs remained in production, and are still available from a number of designer furniture shops. The chairs combine attached squares of top grain leather and stainless steel legs and backing to produce a silhouette that is both simple and luxurious. Like the pavilion, the design of the chairs is understated, capable of standing on its own without any ornamentation other than the natural qualities of the materials.

Mies van der Rohe's early work brought together the production value of Behrens and the Bauhaus, the elegance of the International Style, and the attention to detail and functionality of every movement since the Arts and Crafts Movement in 19th century England. After moving to America before the Second World War, Mies continued to design seminal buildings in major American cities such as Chicago and New York, where he built the Seagram Building in 1858. Designed with Philip Johnson, the Seagram Building finally realized the pair's vision of a universally accessible glass-covered public and business space.


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