Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Vereinigte Glaswerke project, Aachen, Germany. 1969. Photograph. Mies van der Rohe Archive, gift of the architect

“[I]t is logical for architecture to change as the way we live also changes.”

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

One of the leading lights of modernist architecture, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe created a body of work—ranging from tubular steel furniture to iconic office buildings—that influenced generations of architects worldwide. From domestic spaces like the Villa Tugendhat in the Czech Republic to large, elaborate office towers like New York’s Seagram Building, he imbued his buildings with a fluid spatial harmony reflective of his oft-quoted aphorism, “less is more.” While this quote may seem to reflect an overriding interest in achieving minimalist perfection, his passion for rich materials, surfaces, and texture reveals a creative mind equally preoccupied with the minutiae of architectural space, or, as in another quote attributed to him: “God is in the details”.

Mies’s career took off in the fertile atmosphere of Berlin after the First World War, where leading artists and intellectuals were forming a community that would draw the brightest talents from across Europe. His visionary submission for the 1921 Friedrichstrasse skyscraper competition, while not a winner, was an unprecedented embrace of the new materials of steel and glass that later defined modernist architecture. As the decade progressed, he received larger and more prominent commissions, culminating in the offer to design the German pavilion for the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona. The small structure he built, with its flowing spaces, rich marble walls, and custom-designed furniture was an enormous success. It was around this time that Mies formed a highly fruitful partnership with the architect-designer Lilly Reich, with whom he collaborated on numerous projects. Their partnership lasted until his emigration to the United States in 1938.

Nearly as important as the legacy of his buildings is Mies’s impact as a teacher of architecture. In Germany, he served as the final director of the influential Bauhaus school until its closing under pressure from the Nazis in 1933. Shortly after his arrival in the United States, he was offered the directorship of the Armour Institute in Chicago (later renamed the Illinois Institute of Technology), where he shaped a curriculum that influenced a generation of American architects.

America afforded Mies opportunities to work on a far larger scale than he had in Germany, as evidenced by the collection of sleek, glass-skinned office and apartment towers that populate cities across North America. Though in the period after his death many architects rejected his strict formalism in favor of the more eclectic language of postmodernism, his legacy continues to inform the teaching and practice of architecture today.

Note: Opening quote is from “1929 Ludwig Mies van Der Rohe,” in Dietrich Neumann, ed., The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe: One Hundred Texts since 1929 (Birkhäuser, 2020), 50–51.

Paul Galloway, Collection Specialist, Department of Architecture and Design, 2016

Wikipedia entry
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe ( MEESS-...-ROH; German: [ˈluːtvɪç ˈmiːs fan deːɐ̯ ˈʁoːə]; born Maria Ludwig Michael Mies; March 27, 1886 – August 17, 1969) was a German-American architect, academic, and interior designer. He was commonly referred to as Mies, his surname. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of modern architecture. In the 1930s, Mies was the last director of the Bauhaus, a ground-breaking school of modernist art, design and architecture. After Nazism's rise to power, with its strong opposition to modernism, Mies emigrated to the United States. He accepted the position to head the architecture school at what is today the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Mies sought to establish his own particular architectural style that could represent modern times. His buildings made use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define interior spaces. He is often associated with his fondness for the aphorisms "less is more" and "God is in the details".
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Getty record
Born 27 March 1886. Mies was one of the leading figures of Modernist architecture. He spent the early years of his career in Germany, working for various construction firms and eventually opening his own architecture studio in Berlin. In 1938 Mies moved to Chicago to established the department of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (then known as the Armour Institute), and eventually, he designed its new campus while designing buildings for his architecture practice. American architect, born in Germany.
German, American, Austrian
Artist, Architect, Teacher, Designer, Furniture Designer
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig Mies, Liudvig Mis van der Rohe, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Li︠u︡dvig Mis van der Roė, Maria Ludwig Michael Mies van der Rohe
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License


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  • MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art Flexibound, 408 pages
  • MoMA Now: Highlights from The Museum of Modern Art—Ninetieth Anniversary Edition Hardcover, 424 pages
  • Being Modern: Building the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 288 pages
  • Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops in Modernity Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 344 pages
  • Mies in Berlin Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 392 pages
  • Mies in Berlin Exhibition catalogue, Paperback, 392 pages
  • Mies in Berlin Exhibition catalogue, Student edition, 392 pages
  • Mies van der Rohe: Critical Essays Clothbound, 208 pages
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  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Furniture and Furniture Drawings: from the Design Collection and the Mies van der Rohe Archive Exhibition catalogue, Paperback, pages
  • Mies van der Rohe: Drawings in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition catalogue, Spiral, pages
  • Mies van der Rohe Clothbound, pages
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