Mies Van Der Rohe

Mies Van Der Rohe

Mies Van Der Rohe 1886-1969

Unquestionably, by redesigning the Chicago skyline with shimmering buildings that, according to Mike Davis, remain, with their “vertical arrogance,” “the gravestones of our age of accelerated growth,” Mies van der Rohe applied the precept that had been iterated as early as 1924 that “architecture is the will of the epoch translated into space,” and his rationalist conception made a major contribution to shaping the new world. The former director of the avant-garde Bauhaus, he created an intelligible minimalist ethic based on a mantra that epitomises modernity and has been the obsession of design as well as architecture, “Less is more!”

In place of architecture that encloses a space, he substituted the clear structure of apparent simplicity and transparency, with a steel framework and glass skin, “skin & bones,” which nevertheless shows attention to detail, materials and ease of moving around. The German pavilion at the 1929 Industrial Exhibition in Barcelona is still an essential benchmark – it was in this glass and steel showroom, which featured a flexible space combined with sumptuous materials, that he presented the prototype of his famous Barcelona chair, designed in conjunction with his inseparable partner Lilly Reich in honour of the sovereigns of Spain. Upholstered in leather, with a visible structure and polished chrome-plated steel base, X-shaped like a Roman curule and the seats of pharaohs, its royal lineage has an aura of prestige.

The mythical Barcelona chair was reissued in 1952 by Florence Knoll, a student of the master at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. It also became the symbol of the “corporate design” that she invented and promoted in the 1950s to appeal to the market of large industrial groups.

The mythical Barcelona chair was reissued in 1952 by Florence Knoll, a student of the master at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. It also became the symbol of the “corporate design” that she invented and promoted in the 1950s to appeal to the market of large industrial groups.