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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (American, born Germany. 1886–1969)

Resor House Project, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Interior perspective of living room and south glass wall

Date:
1939
Medium:
Graphite, wood veneer, cut-and-pasted gelatin silver photographs, and cut-and-pasted photoreproduction (of Paul Klee's Colorful Meal, 1939) on illustration board
Dimensions:
30 x 40" (76.1 x 101.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Mies van der Rohe Archive, gift of the architect
MoMA Number:
716.1963
Copyright:
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Audio Program excerpt

Mies in Berlin

, June 21–May 11, 2001

Curator, Terence Riley: Mies continued to design during the early years of the Nazi regime, despite his inability to convince clients to build his modern architecture. In 1937, however, his dwindling prospects led him to take up an offer to travel to the United States. Alfred Barr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, had suggested to museum trustee Helen Resor and her husband, Stanley, an advertising executive, that they engage Mies to work on their vacation house in Wilson, Wyoming, near Jackson Hole.

As shown in this photo-collage, the Resor house was to span a stream flowing into the Snake River. Before Mies was hired, another architect had built a two-story wood service wing on one side of the stream and concrete piers in the water.

Mies envisioned constructing another wood building on the other side of the stream and then connecting the existing and the new structures with a glass-enclosed volume supported on the piers. The transparent space would serve as a living and dining room with dramatic views of the Grand Tetons.

Mies spent seven months in New York City designing the house, producing some 800 drawings. After the construction drawings were completed, he accepted an offer to head the architecture department at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago, later renamed the Illinois Institute of Technology. While sailing for Europe to wrap up his affairs in Berlin, Mies received a telegram from the Resors canceling the project.

Undeterred, he continued to refine his design after returning to the United States in the fall of 1938. One of his proposals was to enclose one end of the house in glass, a foreshadowing of his ultra-minimalist design for the Farnsworth house, completed in 1951 outside Chicago.

Years later, architect Philip Johnson, who co-curated the Museum of Modern Art's pioneer 1932 exhibition, "The International Style", would say that for Mies, leaving Berlin was, quote: "unthinkable because he was a German." One of the first to recognize Mies's genius, Johnson realized how important German culture had been to the development of his career.

Architect, Philip Johnson: His great work is all in Berlin. His work later on was a florescence of his work, but the great seminal elements of design, which is after all the whole point in architecture, was in Berlin.

Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 90

In 1937, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe accepted an invitation to visit the United States for the purpose of designing a vacation home for Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Resor near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The house was to span a stream that branched off the Snake River; the Grand Tetons loomed in the distance. By the next year Mies had emigrated to the United States to head the architecture school at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. Although the clients had lost interest in pursuing the project, Mies continued to revise the design and created a number of new drawings, including this collage. George Danforth and William Priestley, students of Mies's, produced the collage, which represents a view from the main living area to the landscape beyond.

In preparing his original design, Mies had made sketches showing freestanding elements—a bench facing the view, a long low cabinet defining the dining space, and a taller bookcase creating a reading area. The strip of wood veneer in the collage seems to be a vestige of the cabinet while the cutout of a painting (Paul Klee's Gay Repast, 1928) reflects the proportions of the bookcase. The disposition of these elements appears neither functional nor even literal, but rather suggests the flowing nature of the space Mies envisaged.

Mies had used collage as a presentation technique throughout his career, beginning with the Bismarck Monument Project of 1910. In many earlier instances he had used collage to construct more realistic views; this and other collages of the 1930s and "40s, however, are less pictorial, more evocative. Thus the photograph of the rugged mountain landscape collaged into the window frames, with cowboys on horseback, does not represent the actual view from the site but suggests what could be considered a fantasy view on the architect's part.

Terence Riley

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