Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Examines two works by minimalist architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

More than any other architect of the 20th century, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe represents the ascendancy of Modernism in its most Minimalist incarnation. While this emphasis on the importance of spare lines and lack of fussiness is understandable, given what had come before in terms of both architecture and decorative arts, this does not necessarily make it more palatable from the perspective of the 21st century. This essay focuses on two specific buildings by Van Der Rohe: the 1930 Tugendhat house in Moravia and the 1929 German Pavilion that he designed for the International Convention in Barcelona, Spain, as a way of delineating the strengths of his work, as well as serving as a reminder of the distinct limitations of Minimalism within the realm of architecture.
“When we look at Tugendhat House what we see is a building that rather aggressively protrudes from the hill to which it is anchored. Mies set the building apart from the hill both in terms of color – it is gray and black, entirely lacking in the greens and earth-tones of the surrounding hillside – and in terms of form. The hill is rounded, gently sloping, its curve emblematic of the ways in which water and geological stratigraphy and wind shape the earth. The building’s exterior is none of these things: It is not only rectilinear (as are most structures in the modern world) but it flaunts this rectilinearity. Its solidity emphasis the human-constructed nature of the structure: We would never (no matter from what distance we viewed this building or from what angle) confuse this with something created by nature.”