Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

The Barcelona Collection

Guided by the mantra “less is more,” Ludwig Mies van der Rohe began his career in architecture working at his father’s stonemasonry business in Germany. After his apprenticeship with furniture designer Bruno Paul in Berlin, “Mies,” as he was called, joined the office of architect Peter Behrens. The work of Behrens was a precursor to the modern movement. During this time, Mies worked on the embassy for the German Empire in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Mies established his own firm in Berlin in 1912. One year later he was married — a marriage that lasted less than a decade. Born Ludwig Mies, after his divorce, he changed his name to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

His design style was most known for open spaces and simplicity. He often used modern materials, including industrial steel and glass in his designs. Mies drew inspiration from the Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. He modeled his designs after the ideas of the Dutch DeStijl, which advocated simplicity and the Russian Constructivism movement, which embraced using architecture to benefit society.

The MR Collection

Mies served as the Director of Deutscher Werkbund a German organization of designers, artists and architects who later created the Weissenhof Project — a 21-building project containing 60 residences. The project was noted for its open plan design, utilizing large open spaces, rather than small rooms.

Mies also served as the Director of the Bauhaus school. During his time as director, he turned Bauhaus into a private institution. He also founded German architectural group Der Ring, which focused on modern design and style.

In the 1930s, Mies was forced to shut down Bauhaus after Nazi Party denounced his ideas as un-German. He moved to the United States in 1937, settling in Chicago, and became head of the architecture department at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1938. During his time at the Armour Institute, he redesigned the school’s campus. Buildings he designed still exist on campus today at the school now known as the Illinois Institute of Technology.

His buildings include the German Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona Exposition, the Tugendhat Villa in Brno, Czechoslovakia, the Seagram Building, designed with Philip Johnson, a cluster of residential towers along Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. Other design projects by Mies include Farnsworth House near Chicago, a glass-enclosed building consisting of an open space separated by partitions and the Twin Towers in Chicago. His final work was the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berline — an art museum built with steel and glass. Mies died in Chicago in 1969.

In addition to architecture, Mies was an accomplished and sought after designer of modern furniture. Many of his designs can be found in modern homes and office spaces around the world. Mies modern furniture is manufactured by Knoll, a bauhaus partner

Watch this video about the Farnsworth House, which Mies designed as a “weekend getaway” for Dr. Edith Farnsworth. A breathtakingly simple, glass house situated in Plano, Illinois.