Remembering Mies

Remembering Mies

Nearly 120 years since his birth, Ludwig Mies van der Rohes’ iconic buildings continue to stand the test of time, representing an enduring impact on the course of modern architecture.
| March 27, 2015

A pioneering master of modern architecture, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born on this day in 1886. Nearly 120 years since his birth, Mies’ iconic buildings continue to stand the test of time, representing an enduring legacy as well as an impact on the course of architecture and design felt around the world.

Throughout his life, Mies sought to create a new architectural language that would be fitting for modern times just as Classical and Gothic architectural styles were for their own eras. By eschewing excess ornamentation, his architectural ethos focused on expressing the honesty of the building by highlighting its structures.

Mies’ first exposure to current architectural theories began as he grew up in Germany, working alongside Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. However, it was after he immigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago that his prolific career took off.

Below are five iconic and enduring works of architecture that showcase Mies’ aptitude for “less is more.”

Regarded as the pinnacle of modern high-rise architecture, Mies’ Seagram building in New York is set back from the street allowing for a forecourt plaza and fountain on Park Avenue. By extending the outdoor plaza tiles into the floor of a lobby, he synthesized the exterior and interior spaces of the site. This device accentuated the effortless flow between natural conditions and artificial structures.

Images courtesy of Kruek Sexton Architecture

The pair of twin glass-and-steel apartment towers along Lake Shore Drive ushered in a new style of residential architecture. With their verticality, grids of steel and glass curtain walls, the high-rises were initially in complete juxtaposition with their surrounding classical style buildings.

Image courtesy of

One of the most iconic works of modern residential architecture, Mies’ Farnsworth House encapsulates the very ideals of the architect’s desire for removal of the non-essential. Expansive glass and extruding terraces connect the home with the natural settle outside of Chicago.

The spectacular minimalism of the Barcelona Pavilion is the result of exacting details, harmonious proportions and sensitivity to materials. Originally a temporary structure built as the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona, the original building has been lost. Today, an identical copy sits in its original location.

One of the architects purest expressions of his philosophy is Crown Hall, home to the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology. The modern masterpiece features a column-free open plan creating a universal space that can be infinitely adapted to changing use.


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