Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

American, born Germany

1886, Aachen, Germany
1969, Chicago, Illinois


Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a German-born architect and educator who greatly influenced the shape and course of Modernism in the United States. Mies spent the first half of his career in Germany, where he worked in his father's stone-carving shop before moving to Berlin to work with Bruno Paul, an interior designer, and architect Peter Behrens.

In 1907 Mies received his first solo commission — the Riehl house in Potsdam — when he was just 20 years old. Even at this young age he was well on his way toward becoming a widely respected figure in Europe's elite cultural scene. He designed the Friedrichstrasse skyscraper in Berlin in 1921, and the German Pavilion for the Barcelona exposition in 1929.

In 1930 Mies was named director of the Bauhaus, the renowned German school of avant-garde art and design. His post was abruptly terminated, however, in 1933, when the reigning Nazi regime closed the school. Mies was forced to seek work abroad, and in 1937 he reluctantly emigrated to the U.S.

The Chicago Armour Institute of Technology (now the Illinois Institute of Technology) recruited Mies to be the head of its architecture school, and to design its expanded 120-acre campus in 1940. His other U.S. commissions included Chicago's Lakeshore Drive Apartments (1951), a pair of residential towers, the Seagram Building (1958) in New York City, and the Farnsworth house (1951), a weekend retreat in a suburb of Chicago.

Constructed of steel and concrete frames with brick and glass curtain walls, Mies' buildings represent a showcase of twentieth-century Modernist ideals.

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