Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the Early 20th Century Ludwig Mies (1886-1969) was born in Aachen and trained, like his Franco-Swiss peer Le Corbusier, in a crafts school. Also like Corb, Mies changed his name, adding the suffix “van der Rohe” to avoid the otherwise pejorative connotation of the word “mies” (in German: “weakly, out of sorts, poor, bad”). He was trained in classicism and continued to abide by concepts of classical restraint, proportion, and attention to structural aesthetics throughout his career. However, he was also heavily influenced by Peter Behrens (in whose studio he worked 1908-1911) and by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose exhibited drawings he saw when they were displayed in Berlin while he was working in the Behrens studio. Originally trained as a furniture designer and later as a stone mason, he easily translated his inclinations into architecture in the Berlin environment. After World War I, he entered several competitions and did a number of projects that were speculative. First entry for the Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper competition, Berlin, 1921 (drawing) First project for a glass skyscraper, Berlin, model, 1922 Project for a glass skyscraper in Berlin, 1922 Project for a Brick Villa, 1924 This design stands under the heavy influence of both Frank Lloyd Wright and the DeStijl movement. The organization of the brick masses and planes should be compared with the plan of the Willitts House (1902) by Wright. Project for a Concrete Office Building, Berlin, 1922-23 Project for the reorganization of Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, c1925 Proposal for the renovation of Potsdamer Platz, Berlin Proposal for a new Reichsbank, 1933 (Competition entry) This project was executed at the outset of the National Socialist regime in Germany and has, among other things, caused some historians to question Mies van der Rohe’s political allegiances. How could someone who had for a while been director of the Bauhaus after its move to Berlin and its eventual closure have designed for the Nazis? Elevation and plan for the proposed Reichsbank, 1933, competition entry In 1927/8, Mies was commissioned to design the German Pavilion for the World’s Exposition to be held in Barcelona, Spain, 1928-29. This exhibit was extremely unique among exhibits because he was not intended to contain such things as German industrial products or even German art. It was to be an experience of the new German modern architecture and nothing else. The building itself, therefore, is the exhibit. An examination of its plans and constructed form shows a strong reliance on Mies’s main sources: classicism, Frank Lloyd Wright, functionalism, and a spatiality related to LeCorbusier’s work, all tempered by a strong sense of elegant materiality and minimalist aesthetics. This Barcelona Pavilion was a tour-de-force in its synthesis of important elements and directions in modern architecture, yet it was far from inexpensive or cost-efficient. The structural frame was accompanied by very expensive materials: marble and onyx, tinted semi-reflecting glass, sharp-edged stainless steel and travertine. The Pavilion was dismantled in 1930 and subsequently lost. In the late 1990s, it was reconstructed using materials very much like those in the original pavilion. Some onyx quarries were even re-opened in order to provide stone from the same source for some of the interior wall planes. The original chrome-plated cruciform columns that carried the thin roof plane were replaced by stainless steel columns; but that is about the only significant material difference. In 1928, the wealthy Czech industrialists Fritz and Grete Tugendhat (pr. “two-gen-tot”) commissioned Mies to design a residence for them in Brno, the capital of the province of Moravia. The house shares some features with the Barcelona Pavilion, but accepts the reality of a sloping site that has a huge panoramic view to the south over the city of Brno in conjunction with the functional program of the family. The street side of the residence is closed, even mysterious, giving little indication of what lies behind its white planes. The bedrooms are at this level which is actually the upper floor of the house. A travertine staircase leads to the stunning living and dining area below with their enormous plate glass windows offering a continuum of space between house and nature whether open or closed.