Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969)

Born Maria Ludwig Michael Mies in Aachen, Germany, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe would go on to become one of the most important architects of the 20th century. He was an apprentice in the offices of Peter Behrens between 1908 and 1911. Around 1920, Mies designed several projects for glass skyscrapers in central Berlin, in crystalline, vertical facets of glass and suspended floor planes.

In 1929, he collaborated with his personal and professional partner Lilly Reich on the German Pavilion for the Barcelona World Exposition. Commonly known as the Barcelona Pavilion, this small, temporary structure, has been reconstructed, and remains one of the most recognized objects in the architectural history of modernism. Composed mainly of a raised terrace and a simple rectangular structure with eight cruciform columns, it set an important precedent for the Farnsworth House. In 1930, Mies succeeded Hannes Meyer as director of the Dessau Bauhaus, remaining in that position until the Bauhaus was forcibly closed by the Nazis in 1933. In 1937, Mies van der Rohe immigrated to the United States.

In 1938, Mies van der Rohe accepted a position as head of the architecture department at the Armour Institute of Technology, soon to be renamed the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1939, he began preliminary designs for the campus of Illinois Institute of Technology on the south side of Chicago. Its composition of low-slung rectangular buildings, arranged as subtly juxtaposed figures on a cleared urban site would constitute one of the most important examples of modernist urban design. He would serve as Director for the next twenty years, during which he refined his philosophy of “less is more” and designed some of the most iconic buildings and skyscrapers of the Modernist movement: the Farnsworth House (1949-51), 860-880 Lake Shore Drive in Chicago (1949-51) and the Seagram Building in New York (1958).

Mies passed away in 1969 at the age of 83. His ashes were interred at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.

It has been widely assumed that Mies van der Rohe and Dr. Edith Farnsworth were romantically involved, but this has never been confirmed. Dr. Farnsworth’s diary, written in retrospect years later, gives no indication that there was an intimate relationship. Mies had left his estranged wife and children and his partner Lilly Reich behind in Germany, and was involved in a long term relationship with sculptor Lora Marx during his life in the United States.