Mary Lim

Sunday, April 06, 2014

t2: project 3 research

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe

"Less is more"
"God is in the details"
"I don't want to be interesting. I want to be good."
"Means must be subsidiary to ends and to our desire for dignity and value."

Tidbits from articles
“But today at 70, after living inconspicuously in the U.S. for 20 years, Mies is bursting into full, spectacular view … [A sudden surge of high-profile commissions] is accepted by Mies as vindication of his lifelong principle that architecture must be true to its time. His own severely geometric, unembellished buildings have been designed to express in purest forms a technological concept of our technological age. They also … express the simplicity and sturdy nobility of Mies himself.” 
“Romanticists don’t like my buildings,” Mies told LIFE, speaking with the sort of simple, unadorned directness that one would expect from the visionary behind the Seagram Building, the Farnsworth House and other Modernist architectural touchstones. “They say [my designs] are cold and rigid. But we do not build for fun. We build for a purpose." 
Read more: Mies van der Rohe: Architect of the Modern World |

Mies's real problem was that he was arguably the first architect to have the last word. His abiding achievement was to strip architecture down to its purest essence – to "almost nothing", as he put it. He was well placed to achieve this technically, taking advantage of progress in materials and engineering, but he was also philosophically driven towards his reductivist goal. He believed in revealing the underlying "truth" of the world, primarily through pure geometric forms and proportions. He succeeded brilliantly, of course, especially with austere American structures like the Seagram Building and the Farnsworth House. But where do you go from there? You can only reproduce what he did already or create inferior versions of it – hence the cheap Mies knockoffs that came to characterise the international style.
But times have changed and evidence of Mies's resurgence is everywhere. First, there's the reconstruction/restoration of some of his "greatest hits". The Barcelona Pavilion, for example – one of the most radical, influential designs of the modern movement, with its flowing open plan, elegant proportions and opulent materials. It was demolished after appearing at the Barcelona Exhibition in 1929, but was painstakingly rebuilt in the 1980s – it's there in Barcelona today. Then there's the Tugendhat House in Brno, Czech Republic, which he completed the year after. An expansion of the themes developed in Barcelona, it's another monumental modernist landmark – not necessarily a comfortable one to live in, but you can't have everything. The Tugendhat House, too, has just been restored, and opened earlier this year.  
Read More:

Mies aspired to a certain universalism. He thought of the steel frame and industrialism as inherently international. He once made the pompous claim that architecture was the spirit of the epoch transposed into space. But he also responded to the hidden continuities of particular cities such as Berlin and Chicago. His arrival in the latter city in the late 1930s could have been engineered by fate. 
He was able to return to the precepts of the early North American frame skyscrapers of the late 19th century and give them a new energy inspired by the European avant-garde visions of ‘crystal cathedrals’ of the 1920s. But then the so called Chicago School was itself full of echoes from Mies’s early 19th century master Schinkel. Sullivan’s Wainwright skyscraper recalls the reductivist pilasters of Schinkel’s Bauakademie (1833), whereas Wright’s Unity Temple harks back to the simplified neo-classicism and rectangular piers of the Berlin Schauspielhaus (1820). Such are the longer wave motions of history. 

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