Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig (lōtˈvĭkh mēˈĕs vän dĕr rōˈə) [key], 1886–1969, German-American architect. A pioneer of modern architecture and one of its most influential figures, he is famous for his minimalist architectural dictum "less is more." In Germany, he was an assistant to Peter Behrens. Mies's 1921 design for an all-glass skyscraper attracted international attention, and he went on to create several such projects, none of them actually constructed. He directed the seminal 1927 Werkbund Housing Exposition at Stuttgart. His German Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exposition (1929; recently reerected) was heralded for its sumptuous materials, asymmetrical plan, and complex interpenetration of exterior and interior spaces. Mies was appointed director of the Bauhaus at Dessau (1930).
He left Germany in 1937 for the United States, where, from 1938 until his retirement in 1958, he headed the department of architecture at Chicago's Armour Institute (now the Illinois Institute of Technology), teaching and putting into practice the Bauhaus aesthetic that fused art with technology. There he planned the new campus and designed (1942–58) several of its buildings, notably the superb Crown Hall (1956), home of the architectecture department. During this period he also created some private homes, including the outstanding 1951 Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill., now a state museum. In the 860 Lake Shore Drive apartments in Chicago (1949–51), the Seagram Building in New York (with Philip Johnson; 1956–58), and other buildings, Mies incorporated the principles of the glass skyscraper with a surface expression of steel-frame construction. In doing so he helped create a style that dominated the American urban modernist idiom, but with a perfectionism rarely matched by any other architect. He also experimented with buildings of a single great space, such as the New National Gallery in Berlin (1962–68).
See his works ed. by M. Pawley (1970); biographies by F. Schulze (1985, rev. ed. 2012) and Y. E. Safran (2000); studies by P. Johnson (1953), A. Drexler (1960), P. Blake (1964 and 1996), P. Carter (1974), W. Tegethoff (1980), J. Zukowsky, ed. (1986), E. S. Hochman (1989 and 1990), W. Blaser (rev. ed. 1997), E. Stoller (1999), R. Daza (2000), and P. Lambert, ed. (2001).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.