Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's dictum "less is more" came to be understood as the underlying rationale for German modernism. Director of the Bauhaus School of Dessau from 1930 until the Nazis closed it in 1933, Mies van der Rohe worked in the International style made famous by Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, but he tempered his constructions with beautifully rich materials of contrasting texture and color. This style is evident in his model house built for the German Pavilion of the International Exposition held in Barcelona in 1929. The interior, designed in an open, geometric plan of balanced rectangular spaces, reveals a strongly structured building that serves as a back-drop for the display of stainless steel accents, tinted glass windows, and rich marble, a huge slab of which is used for the entrance partition. The stainless steel Barcelona chair, still used today, was first seen in this house. The house thus shows how Mies van der Rohe balanced the spare International style with beautiful details to give elegance and warmth to his interiors.
   Unable to develop his career in Germany, Mies van der Rohe emigrated to the United States in 1937 and settled in Chicago, where he taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1951, Mies completed the small Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, as a weekend retreat for Dr. Edith Farnsworth. This modest home created a new paradigm in modernist domestic architecture and is therefore perhaps his most famous work. The one-story rectangular home, elevated on steel piers, features a flat roof and exterior walls made entirely of glass. This geometric home is the first "glass house" constructed in the United States. Built with precast concrete floors and concrete roof slabs held in place by a steel frame and with glass curtain walls, the isolated setting of the home allowed for privacy despite its transparent exterior walls. Concrete steps lead to an open porch, while the interior rooms are divided by beautiful wood partitions that recall Mies's German Pavilion in Barcelona.
   Mies is also known for his glass skyscrapers, inspired in their design by the previous generation of architects working in Chicago, such as Louis Sullivan of the "Chicago School." In 1951, Mies constructed his famous glass skyscraper apartments on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, numbered 860 through 880. His skyscrapers are further stripped down to form a giant square tower of glass, as seen in his Seagram Building, designed with Philip Johnson in New York City in 1954. This tall building came to epitomize post-World War II skyscraper design, but in addition to the traditional steel beams encased in concrete, Mies added custom-made bronze beams along the outer wall to echo the internal structure of the building and to reveal his love of elegant materials. The glass curtain wall was darkly tinted to increase privacy, reduce glare, and add a more dignified external appearance to the office building. It was ultimately this building type, symbolic of a clean efficiency, that dominated corporate architecture through the end of the 20th century.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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