Less Is More: 10 Buildings by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
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Less Is More: 10 Buildings by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's International Style was the impetus for the midcentury modernism we know today. Thus, he's widely acknowledged as one of the 20th century's greatest architects.

With his glass-and-metal creations and his iconic Barcelona chair, Mies sought to establish a new architectural ethos that would represent modern times. His work was the cornerstone for the Museum of Modern Art's 1932 exhibition, "The International Style"—curated by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock—which brought the modernist movement to a wider audience and solidified his role as a leader. His legacy lives on through his influential ideology, which proves that—as the architect once stated—"less is more."

Farnsworth House (1951)

Plano, Illinois

One of the most significant of Mies' works, the Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, was built between 1945 and 1951 for Dr. Edith Farnsworth as a weekend retreat. The home embraces his concept of a strong connection between structure and nature, and may be the fullest expression of his modernist ideals. 

One of the most significant of Mies' works, the Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, was built between 1945 and 1951 for Dr. Edith Farnsworth as a weekend retreat. The home embraces his concept of a strong connection between structure and nature, and may be the fullest expression of his modernist ideals. 

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The Barcelona Pavilion (1929)

Barcelona, Spain

Designed by Mies van der Rohe as part of the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain, The Barcelona Pavilion showcased his iconic Barcelona chair for Knoll and introduced architecture's new modern movement to the world.  

Designed by Mies van der Rohe as part of the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain, The Barcelona Pavilion showcased his iconic Barcelona chair for Knoll and introduced architecture's new modern movement to the world.  

Chicago Federal Complex

Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago Federal Center is another example of the incredible architectural legacy that Mies van der Rohe left the city of Chicago. In his book Chicago: In and Around the Loop, Walking Tours of Architecture and History, Gerard Wolfe refers to the Federal Center as "the ultimate expression of the second Chicago school of architecture." Alexander Calder’s striking ‘Flamingo’ sculpture complements the linear complex. 

The Chicago Federal Center is another example of the incredible architectural legacy that Mies van der Rohe left the city of Chicago. In his book Chicago: In and Around the Loop, Walking Tours of Architecture and History, Gerard Wolfe refers to the Federal Center as "the ultimate expression of the second Chicago school of architecture." Alexander Calder’s striking ‘Flamingo’ sculpture complements the linear complex. 

Crown Hall (1956)

Chicago, Illinois

Completed in 1956, Crown Hall is the home of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. Widely regarded as one of Mies van der Rohe's masterpieces, Crown Hall beautifully illustrates his basic steel-and-glass construction technique.  Mies considered the building to be the embodiment of his famous statement, "less is more."

Completed in 1956, Crown Hall is the home of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. Widely regarded as one of Mies van der Rohe's masterpieces, Crown Hall beautifully illustrates his basic steel-and-glass construction technique. Mies considered the building to be the embodiment of his famous statement, "less is more."

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (1972)

Washington D.C.

As his last building and his only library, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (MLKML) is the central facility of the District of Columbia Public Library System. The 400,000-square-foot steel, brick, and glass structure was completed in 1972 and is a rare example of modern architecture in Washington, D.C. Currently closed for updates, the building is scheduled to reopen in 2020. 

As his last building and his only library, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (MLKML) is the central facility of the District of Columbia Public Library System. The 400,000-square-foot steel, brick, and glass structure was completed in 1972 and is a rare example of modern architecture in Washington, D.C. Currently closed for updates, the building is scheduled to reopen in 2020. 

Seagram Building (1958)

New York, New York

Setting the standard for the modern skyscraper, the 38-story Seagram Building is located in the heart of New York City on Park Avenue. The elegant structure was Mies' first tall office building construction and embodies the principles of modernism. 

Setting the standard for the modern skyscraper, the 38-story Seagram Building is located in the heart of New York City on Park Avenue. The elegant structure was Mies' first tall office building construction and embodies the principles of modernism. 

860-880 North Lake Shore Drive

Chicago, Illinois

Built between 1949 and 1951, the iconic 860-880 Lake Shore Drive towers redefined high-rise living for the post-war generation. An integral part of the Chicago skyline, the 26-story towers overlook Lake Michigan and offer residents a stunning waterfront view. 

Built between 1949 and 1951, the iconic 860-880 Lake Shore Drive towers redefined high-rise living for the post-war generation. An integral part of the Chicago skyline, the 26-story towers overlook Lake Michigan and offer residents a stunning waterfront view. 

Lafayette Park (1959)

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit's Lafayette Park—the first urban-renewal project in the United States—constitutes the world's largest collection of buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe. Completed in 1959, the 78-acre complex is not as well known as some of Mies' other projects. However, it deserves recognition as it still remains a vibrant neighborhood, even being more than 50 years old.

Detroit's Lafayette Park—the first urban-renewal project in the United States—constitutes the world's largest collection of buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe. Completed in 1959, the 78-acre complex is not as well known as some of Mies' other projects. However, it deserves recognition as it still remains a vibrant neighborhood, even being more than 50 years old.

Cullinan Hall at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1954)

Houston, Texas

In 1953, Nina J. Cullinan gifted a building addition to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts as a memorial for her parents. Her only stipulation was that it had to be designed by an architect of "outstanding reputation and wide experience." After being selected for the commission, Mies arrived in Houston on a hot summer day and rejected the idea of a standard open museum courtyard by remarking, "But in this climate, you cannot want an open patio."

In 1953, Nina J. Cullinan gifted a building addition to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts as a memorial for her parents. Her only stipulation was that it had to be designed by an architect of "outstanding reputation and wide experience." After being selected for the commission, Mies arrived in Houston on a hot summer day and rejected the idea of a standard open museum courtyard by remarking, "But in this climate, you cannot want an open patio."

Neue Nationalgalerie (1968)

Berlin, Germany

The Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) is a museum that Mies designed for modern art in Berlin. The museum building and its sculpture gardens opened in 1968.

The Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) is a museum that Mies designed for modern art in Berlin. The museum building and its sculpture gardens opened in 1968.

Shop Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Designs
Knoll Barcelona Chair
Knoll Barcelona Chair
When Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was chosen to create the furnishings for the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona, he designed an iconic chair that many may not realize was born with royal roots.
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Mies van der Rohe
Famed for his motto “less is more,” Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) was one of the founding fathers of modern architecture and a hotly-debated tastemaker of twentieth century aesthetics and urban experience.  Mies van der Rohe's philosophy was one of underlying truth in pure forms and...
Knoll Barcelona Table
Knoll Barcelona Table
Exhibiting an unerring sense of proportion, as well as minimalist forms and exquisitely refined details, architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's tables and chairs have been called “architecture in miniature.” The Barcelona Table (1930) was originally created for the Mies-designed Villa Tugendhat in...