Mies van der Rohe's unrealised design and James Stirling: Circling the Square, for London

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The Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London,W1B 1AD. UK
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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”.


James Stirling. Born in Glasgow in 1924, James Frazer Stirling grew up in Liverpool. From 1946 to 1950 he studied architecture at the Liverpool School of Architecture, where Colin Rowe was among his teachers. After attaining his degree he took a position at the School of Town Planning and Regional Research in London.

From 1953 to 1956 he was on the staff of the influential firm of Lyons, Israel and Ellis. In 1955 he began teaching at the Architectural Association. From 1966 onwards he also taught at the Yale School of Architecture as Davenport Visiting Professor of Design. Later he was appointed to teach the architecture class at the Düsseldorf Academy. He received various distinctions in the course of his career, including the Aalvar Aalto Medal (1978), the Golden Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1980) and the Pritzker Prize (1981). Shortly before his death in 1992 James Stirling was knighted by the Queen.

James Stirling worked with a number of partners, among them James Gowan from 1956 to 1963, and from 1971 onwards Michael Wilford, who carried on the firm James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates after Stirling’s death. A number of his projects such as the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart and the Haus der Geschichte Baden-Württemberg could only be realized posthumously.

Throughout his life, the interpretations and assessments of Stirling’s works varied greatly, and architectural critics assigned them to a range of different styles and currents. Terms such as Brutalism and Post-Modern – which Stirling had rejected for his work – were repeatedly proposed as a means of categorizing his various work phases. Actually, however, the new survey of his oeuvre clearly reveals that James Stirling’s architecture defies unequivocal classification and constantly oscillates between the poles of “abstraction” and “representation” which, according to Stirling himself, can also be defined as the “monumental informel” in his oeuvre.




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