Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is an icon of modern architecture. The Museum of Modern Art honours him as a representative of the International Style although he never formally studied architecture.
He learned his profession from scratch. A mason’s son he worked at the father’s workshop before training to be a draughtsman. First apprentice with the architect and furniture designer Bruno Paul in Berlin his career in architecture begins when he joins Peter Behrens, the “pioneer of industrial design”.
When he opened his first studio in 1919 he had already developed his own style and worked on the first skyscrapers in steel and glass. Several similar studies on the subject are the result of his collaboration with the revolutionary artists and architects of the November Group. They should become popular as skin and bones architecture. Although none of these were ever built they should be significant for his increasing popularity and many of his buildings later in his career.
„Form is not the objective but the result“ he is often quoted and revived the dogma form follows function. With „Less is more“ he describes his ambition for absolut simplicity. As far as possible each element of a design should serve multiple aesthetic and functional aspects.
The Weissenhof Estate, launched 1926 under his direction in Stuttgart, should become one oft he most influential examples of modern architecture of the 20s, even an entire era. Many inspiring architects such as Peter Behrens, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius joined the project and added to this collection of work on the subject Modern Living.
It is in this context that Mies started working on furniture designs, all of them by-products to commissioned projects.
When he encounters Mark Stam’s designs for a cantilever chair while working on the Weissenhof Estate he picks up on the idea and experiments further with tubular steel for the frame. The MR 10 is born and along with it the MR 20 with armrests.
More innovative furniture concepts follow for the German Pavilion for the world exhibition 1929 in Barcelona. The use of forged band steel makes the scissor like form possible and with it the visual lightness of the Barcelona Chair. Mies himself calls it a “monumental object”.
In 1930 work on the villa for the industrial couple Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic is completed. The designs for the interior become world-famous.
The Tugendhat Chair, constructed as a cantilever reminds visually of the Barcelona series. The Brno Chair is a cantilever as well. Mies comes back to the idea to work with band steel and introduced spring steel for the frame. The Brno Chair is available with a tubular steel base as well.
Mies van der Rohe is often remembered as the last director of the Bauhaus. With increasing pressure from the Nazis he decided to close it down 1933 before he immigrated to the United States in 1938. He is appointed director oft he department of architecture of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. His philosophy and teaching style influence architecture till today especially in Europe and America.
Till his death he was very productive with his own studio. Although most of his work is in the USA the last of his projects that is gets to complete himself is the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.