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MIES VAN DER ROHE, Ludwig (1886-1969)

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MIES VAN DER ROHE, Ludwig (1886-1969), German-American architect, who was the leading and most influential exponent of the glass and steel architecture of the 20th-century International style. Born in Aachen, Germany, on March 27, 1886, Mies received his principal training as an employee of the architect and furniture designer Bruno Paul (1874-1968) from 1905 to 1907 and then as an employee of the pioneering industrial architect Peter Behrens from 1908 to 1911. Mies opened his own office in Berlin in 1912. Mies received relatively few commissions during his early years, but his completed works illustrate the styles that were to occupy him throughout his career. In models for several skyscrapers, he experimented with steel frames and glass walls. In two early masterpieces, the German Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona exhibition (for which he also designed the famous chrome and leather Barcelona chair) and the Tugendhat House (1930) in Brno, Czech Republic, he produced long, low glass-sheathed buildings in which the interiors were treated as a series of free-flowing spaces with minimal walls, usually of rare marbles and woods. Mies's style was characterized by its severe simplicity and the refinement of its exposed structural elements. Although not the first architect to work in this mode, he carried rationalism and functionalism to their ultimate stage of development. His famous dictum "less is more" crystallized the basic philosophy of mid-20th-century architecture. Rigidly geometrical and devoid of ornamentation, his buildings depended for their effect on subtlety of proportion, elegance of material (including marble, onyx, chrome, and travertine), and precision of details. Mies was director of the Bauhaus School of Design, the major center of 20th-century architectural modernism, from 1930 until its disbandment in 1933. He moved to the U.S. in 1937, where, as director of architecture (1938-58) at the Illinois Institute of Technology, he trained a new generation of American architects. He produced many buildings in the U.S., including skyscrapers, museums, schools, and residences. His 37-story bronze-and-glass Seagram Building in New York City (1958; in collaboration with the American architect Philip Johnson) is considered the most subtle development of the glass-walled skyscraper, while his glass-walled Farnsworth House (1950, near Fox River, Ill.) is the culmination of his residential architecture. With the French architect Le Corbusier and the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies was one of the three most influential 20th-century architects, and his skyscraper designs in particular have been copied or adapted by most modern architects working in the field. He died in Chicago, Aug. 17, 1969.

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