Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library by Mies van der Rohe, renovation completed by Mecanoo

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Architects
Client
District of Columbia Public Library.
Dates
Contest.- 2014. Completion.- 2020. Opening.- 2021.
Area
37,000 m².
Location
901 G Street NW, Washington D.C. - USA.
Photography
Trent Bell, Robert Benson.

FRANCINE HOUBEN. MECANOO

Francine Houben (Holland 1955) began formulating the three fundamentals of her lifelong architectural vision while studying at the Delft University of Technology. It was in this crucible of higher learning that she began an architectural practice with two fellow students with the design of a groundbreaking social housing development. As a result, she graduated as architect with cum laude honours in 1984 and officially founded Mecanoo architecten with these same partners.

Francine has remained true to her architectural vision, Composition, Contrast, Complexity throughout her career. Always looking for inspiration and the secret of a specific location, Francine bases her work on both analyses and intuition. She enjoys interweaving social, technical, playful and humane aspects together in order to form a unique solution to each situation. Francine Houben combines the disciplines of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture in an untraditional way; with sensitivity for light and beauty.

Her use of material is expressive. She is known as one of the most prolific architects in Europe today. Her wide-ranging portfolio comprises an intimate chapel built on the foundations of a former 19th century chapel in Rotterdam (2001) to Europe’s largest library in Birmingham (2013). Francine Houben’s work reveals a sensory aspect determined by form and space, a lavish use or subtle combinations of the most diverse materials, as well as planes of saturated colour. Francine’s contribution to the profession of architecture is widely recognized. She was granted lifelong membership to the Akademie der Künste, Berlin in 2010.

In 2008, she received the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award. Honorary fellowships to the American Institute of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and an international fellowship to the Royal Institute of British Architects were granted to her in previous years. The past three decades have seen her cumulative effect on the profession of architecture. Francine lectures all over the world and takes part as a jury member in prestigious competitions.

Her commitment to research and education is evidenced in her instatement as professor in Architecture, Chair of Aesthetics of Mobility at the Delft University of Technology (2000), her professorship at the Universitá della Svizzera Italiania, Accademia di architettura, Switzerland (2000) and her appointment as visiting professor at Harvard (2007). Dedication to her alma mater is reflected in generous sponsorship of the UfD-Mecanoo Award for the best graduating student of the Delft University of Technology.

Francine Houben lives in Rotterdam, a modern city where the skyline is dotted with buildings designed by world renowned architects; including her award winning Montevideo Skyscraper (2005). It was in this dynamic city that she directed and curated the First International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (2003), with the theme, ‘Mobility, a room with a view’. She has realised numerous signature projects throughout the Netherlands and Europe including Philips Business Innovation Centre, FiftyTwoDegrees in Nijmegen, (2005-2006), La Llotja Theatre and Conference Centre in Lleida, Spain (2009) and the Delft University of Technology Library (1999). Currently, she is expanding her architectural vision to other continents with the design of Taiwan’s largest theatre complex, The Wei-Wu-Ying Center for the Arts in Kaohsiung (2014), Dudley Municipal Center in Boston (USA) and Shenzhen Cultural Center (China). In 2011 the book Dutch Mountains was released, a chronicle of Francine Houben and eight special projects in five different countries.

Francine maintains an active presence in academia and culture, regularly publishing and giving lectures worldwide. She has performed in many academic and professional capacities throughout her career, including Chair of Architecture and Aesthetics of Mobility at Delft University of Technology, visiting professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design, and as director of the First International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam.

Francine has received honorary fellowships from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the American Institute of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. In 2014 Francine was named Woman Architect of the Year by the Architects’ Journal and in November 2015 Queen Máxima of The Netherlands presented Francine with the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Prize for her wide-ranging career. Francine was awarded Honorary Doctorates from the Université de Mons, Belgium (2017) and the Utrecht University (2016).

“Architecture must appeal to all the senses. Architecture is never a purely intellectual, conceptual, or visual game alone. Architecture is about combining all the individual elements into a single concept. What counts in the end is the arrangement of form and emotion.”

Francine Houben, architect/creative director Mecanoo Architecten.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aquisgran the 27th of Marz of 1886 and died in Chicago the 17th of August of 1969. He was active in Germany, from 1908 to 1938, when he moved to USA and where he was until his death. He was also considerate a “master” of the Modern Movement, since the 50s, and he was one of the fathers of this movement with Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Mies van der Rohe, who in his childhood was guided by masters as Hendrik Petrus Berlage or Peter Behrens, he always kept tabs of the Villlet-Le-Duc’s rationalism or Karl Friedrich Schinkel eclectic classicism, having a strong connection with the architectural historicism. As he said in his manifesto “Baukunst und Zeiwille” about this: “it is not possible to move on looking back”.

In 1900 he began to work with his father in the stone workshop of the family and shortly afterward he move to Berlin to work with Bruno Paul in 1902, designing furniture. He planned his first house in 1907, the “Riehl House” in Neubabelsbers and worked from 1908 to 1911 in Peter Behrens’s studio. There he was influenced by structural technics and designs based on steel and glass, as the AEG project in Berlin. While he was in Behrens’s studio he designed the Perls House.

In 1912 he openned his own studio and projected a house in The Hague for Kröller-Müller marriage. The studio received few jobs in its first years, but Mies, contrary to architects as Le Corbusier, in his first years he already showed an architectural policy to follow, being an architect that changed little his architectural philosophy. To his epoch belonged the Heertrasse House and Urbig House as his principal projects.

In 1913 se move to the outskirts of Berlin with his wife Ada Bruhn with whom he would have three kids. The family broke up when Mies was posted to Romania during the World War I.

In 1920, Ludwig Mies changed his surname to Mies van der Rohe and in 1922 he joined as member to the “Novembergruppe”. One year later, in 1923, he published the magazine “G” with Doesburg Lisstzky and Rechter. During this period he worked in two houses, the Birck House and the Mosler House. In 1926, Mies van der Rohe held the post of chief commissioner of the German Werkbund exhibition, being his president this year. In this period he projected the Wolf House in Guden and the Hermann Lange House in Krefeld and in 1927, he met the designer Lilly Reich, in the house exhibition of Weissenhof, where he was director, and he planned a steel structure block for her.

In 1929, he received the project the German National Pavilion to the International Exhibition of Barcelona) rebuilt in 1986=, where he included the design of the famous Barcelona Chair.

In 1930, he planned in Brün – present Czech Republic -, the Tugendhat Villa. He managed the Dessau’s Bauhaus until his closure in 1933. The Nazism forced Mies to emigrate to the United States in 1937. He was designated chair of the Architecture department in Armour Institute in 1938, the one that later merged with the Lewis Institute, forming the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and where he took the responsibility to build a considerable extent of the foundations of the Intitute from 1939 and 1958. One of the buildings of this complex is the Crown Hall, IIT (1950-1956).

In 1940, he met the person who would be his partner until his death, Lora Marx. He became citizen of the USA in 1944 and, one year later, he began with the Farnsworth House’s project (1945-1950). During this stage, in 1948, he designed his first skyscraper: the two towers of the Lake Drive Apartments in Chicago, which were finished in 1951. Shortly after, he planned other building of this typology, the Commonwealth Promenade Apartments, from 1953 to 1956.

In 1958 he projected his most important work: the Segram Building in New York. This building has 37 storeys, covered with glass and bronze, which built and planned with Philip Johnson. He retired from the Illinois Institute of Technology the same year. He also built more towers and complexes as: the Toronto Dominion Centre (1963-1969) and the Westmount Square (1965-1968) and designed the New Square and Office Tower of The City of London (1967).

From 1962 to 1968, he built the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, which would be his last legacy to the architecture. The building that rose as exhibition hall is made of steel, glass and granite.

He died in Chicago the 17th of August if 1969 leaving behind a large legacy and influence to next generations.

The Mies van der Rohe’s most famous sentences are “Less is more” and “God is in the details”.
 

JUNG METALOCUS

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