Crown Hall, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago © Danielle Tinero / RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1992
Ludwig Mies (van der Rohe was his mother’s maiden name) was apprenticed to his father, a master mason, from the age of 15. After four years of learning about the possibilities and limitations of masonry construction, Mies moved to Berlin to be apprenticed to a furniture and cabinet maker.
Mies left his apprentciseship to Peter Behrns in 1913 to open his own architectural office in Berlin. Following his service in the First World War, Mies returned to demonstrate his vision as a designer. His designs for buildings such as the Concrete Office Building quickly established his reputation as a pioneer of modern architecture. His work overlapped with painting and sculpture as the boundaries between the artistic disciplines became less rigid.
In 1926, Mies became the first vice-president of the Deutscher Werkbund, an influential organisation founded by architects and industrialists to improve German architecture and design. Mies then went on to design the German Pavilion for the International Exposition at Barcelona in 1929, as well as the famous Barcelona chair, both of which were recognised as supreme examples of modernism. He was also appointed Director of the Bauhaus School at Dessau in 1929, which he moved to Berlin in 1931, but which closed in 1933 because of Nazi pressure. By 1937, the period of experimental architectural projects in Germany had ended.
© RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1959
Mies left Germany in 1938 for America at the invitation of Mr and Mrs Resor. He designed a house for them in Wyoming, which was later updated and reinterpreted in the guise of the Farnsworth house. In 1939, Mies was appointed Director of the Illinois Institute of Technology and was commissioned to design the new campus including the Chemical, Engineering and Metallurgy building, the Alumni Memorial Hall, and the Architecture and Design building, between 1942 and 1955.
His masterpiece is considered to be the Seagram Building, a 37 storey office in New York, designed in association with Philip Johnson. Mies' last major work was the New National Gallery in Berlin.
"The Royal Gold Medal was awarded 'in honour of one of the greatest living figures in architecture."
Buildings by Mies:
- Concrete Office Building, Berlin, 1922
- Concrete Country House, Berlin, 1923
- Brick Country House, Berlin, 1924
- Apartment building, Am Weissenhof 14-20, Stuttgart, 1927
- German Pavilion for the International Exposition at Barcelona, 1929
- Chemical, Engineering and Metallurgy building, 1942, the Alumni Memorial Hall, 1945, the Chapel, 1952, and the Architecture and Design building, 1956, Illinois Institute of Technology
- Seagram Building, New York, 1958
- New National Gallery, Berlin, 1968