Clarity, logic and order; these are the main principles that describe Mies van der Rohe’s style. This was because he believed that these traits were essential in the creation of order in an otherwise desperate confusion (Whitman, 1969).
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Mies van der Rohe is known for his ‘Less in More” approach to architecture that emphasized on the integrity of the structure and the authenticity of the materials. The overall objective was the effective creation and utilization of space. He has been quoted as saying that “Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space” (Whitman, 1969). During his architectural life, Mies has been credited with the creation of monumental architecture (Great Buildings, 2008).
Born in 1886 in Aachen, Germany, Mies van der Rohe rose from humble beginning to go down in history as the father of modern architecture. His father was a master stone mason and until he was 19, he trained with his father. In Berlin, he was privileged to work for Paul Bruno, a furniture designer and architect. From 1908 to 1912, he worked for Peter Behrens (Great Buildings, 2008). It was under the stewardship of Behrens that Mies developed his keen interest in Prussian classicism, Russian constructivism and advanced structure techniques. He also developed his glass and steel design style from Karl F. Schinkel’s lintel construction. From there on he opened his own practice.
What probably catapulted him into the limelight was the 1921 Fridrichstrasse skyscraper which he designed for a competition. Albeit it was built, it played the role of a critical in forecasting his future with breathtaking skyscrapers. The 20’s was a defining period for him as he was involved with organizations that supported modern art. He was also responsible for the introduction of ribbon windows to the architecture world; a concept hat has since been widely embraced (Whitman, 1969).
One of his most famous buildings is the German Pavilion of 1929 that was a mark of his superior creative ability. Its marble and glass walls were could be moved about as they did not support the pavilion’s wall. The concept of seamless space use was fully explored. This particular piece of work was an expression of “skin and bone clarity”, something that was synonymous with Mies’ work (Design Boom, 2008).
The economic slump that faced Germany saw a sharp decline in the building rate, and this lead to the relocation of Mies to The United States in 1937 and his reputation had preceded him. This marked the second phase of his career as an architect although he stayed true to his style. The Farnsworth House was said to be the “most radically minimalist house ever designed” that propagated his flexible and open use of space concept. In 1951 the designed twin Towers in Chicago was completed and this led to the onset of a string of skyscrapers in New York, Detroit among other major US cities. However, it was in 1954 that the skyscraper masterpiece of all time, the Seagram Building, was created (Design Boom, 2008).
Undoubtedly, Mies has had considerable influence on the direction of modern architecture. Ever since his presence began being noticed after World War II, Mies has been of a forward trend in gaining popularity. His structures have been known, admired and highly appreciated for their simplicity and uniqueness. His works demonstrated a deep understanding of the importance of keen craftsmanship and attention to detail. Maybe this was a reflection of himself; he was an exquisite but conservative dresser who loved to dine and wine.
In essence, Mies style is deliberately, simple, clear and reasonable. He said many at times that his architecture was so that anybody could pull off. His intention was that the building created would be a “true statement of its times” (Whitman, 2008). For example, he thought that the George Washington Bridge, New York was a bold representation of a structural period. Despite the fact that the building was proportionally grand, its structure was not concealed by ornamentation. His love for simplicity in architecture emphasized on the importance of grasping the fundamentals and that any material could be made into whatever one needed it to be and that the newest of materials were not necessarily the most superior.
Mies has been criticized of being arrogant of that fact that the many glasses he uses lead to excessive solar exposure. He has also been accused of making his structures appear machine made, rather than the hand made structures that they really are. Some have dubbed his work as “less is a bore”. He has also been accused of being indifferent to the cause of the buildings of those surrounding his (Architect, 2008).
In my opinion, despite the fact that Mies had not formal academic training as an architect, he was undoubtedly a genius in the design and innovation of imposing 20th century structure, an era that in dominantly technological. Although he did not get formal architectural training, I believe that it was maybe his interest in philosophy that formed the basis of his style. But what is very clear about Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe is that his architectural style is here to stay.
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