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Mies van der Rohe 
(1886-1969)

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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a German-American architect, the leading and most influential exponent of the glass and steel architecture of the 20th-century International Style. Born in Aachen, Germany, on March 27, 1886, Mies received his principal training as an employee of the architect and furniture designer Bruno Paul from 1905 to 1907 and then as an employee of the pioneering industrial architect Peter Behrens from 1908 to 1911. Mies opened his own office in Berlin in 1912.  
  • Germany 1986.  Mies van der Rohe commemorated at his 100th birth anniversary, on the background of his building New National Gallery in Berlin (Germany), constructed 1962-1968.  

Germany 1986. Bauhaus Architecture. Mies van der Rohe. Commemorative issue at his 100th birth anniversary.

Germany 1997. Bauhaus Architecture. Mies van der Rohe. Special stamp featuring the New National Gallery in Berlin. Germany 1987. Europa Stamp. German Pavilion in Barcelona, Spain, by Mies van der Rohe.

Germany 1997. Modern Architecture after 1945.

Mies received relatively few commissions during his early years, but his early works illustrate the styles that were to occupy him throughout his career. 

USA 1982. Bauhaus Architecture. Mies van der Rohe. "Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago".

In models for several skyscrapers, he experimented with steel frames and glass walls. In two early masterpieces, the German Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona exhibition (for which he also designed the famous chrome and leather Barcelona chair) and the Tugendhat House (1930) in Brno (now in the Czech Republic), he produced long, low glass-sheathed buildings in which the interiors were treated as a series of free-flowing spaces with minimal walls, usually of rare marbles and woods. 
  • USA 1982.  Mies van der Rohe:  "Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago". 

Mies was director of the Bauhaus School of Design, the major centre of 20th-century architectural modernism, from 1930 until its disbandment in 1933. He moved to the United States in 1937, where, as director of architecture (1938-1958) at the Illinois Institute of Technology, he trained a new generation of American architects. He produced many buildings in the United States, including skyscrapers, museums, schools, and residences. 

Of the latter his apartment building "Lake Shore Drive 860-880" in Chicaco, Illinois, is one of the most famous, built 1949-1951, and featured on a stamp from the United States 2005. In the lower left corner is printed "1951", indicating the year of completion of the building. 

The stamp is part of the sheet "Masterpieces of Modern American Architecture, consisting of 10 self-adhesive stamps.  See the full sheet here. The stamp is No. 2 from the left in the middle row. The link will open in a new window. 

  • USA 2005.  860-880 Lake Shore Drive.  

USA 2005. Bauhaus Architecture. Mies van der Rohe. 860-880 Lake Shore Drive.

His 37-storey bronze-and-glass Seagram Building in New York (1958; in collaboration with the American architect Philip Johnson) is considered the most subtle development of the glass-walled skyscraper, while his glass-walled Farnsworth House (1950, near Fox River, Illinois) is the culmination of his residential architecture. 

Villa Tugendhat, designed as a functionalist building, stands on the hillside of the Brno residential quarter Černé Pole facing the city centre, Špilberk and Petrov. 

The three-floor building is partially set in the hill. A broad staircase joins the dining room with the garden which makes an integral part of the building, a fact which the author of the stamp endeavoured to emphasize. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe also designed the furniture and interior details, such as door handles, curtains, lighting bodies, etc. 

Czech Republic 2005. Bauhaus Architecture. Mies van der Rohe. Villa Tugendhat.

Mies's style is characterized by a severe simplicity and the refinement of its exposed structural elements. Although not the first architect to work in this mode, he carried rationalism and functionalism to their ultimate stage of development. His famous dictum "less is more" crystallized the basic philosophy of mid-20th-century architecture. Rigidly geometrical and devoid of ornamentation, his buildings depended for their effect on subtlety of proportion, elegance of material (including marble, onyx, chrome, and travertine), and precision of details. 

Mies van der Rohe. Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic. Czech Republic 2000. Bauhaus Architecture. Mies van der Rohe. Stationery related to Villa Tugendhat.

Together with the French architect Le Corbusier and the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies was one of the three most influential 20th-century architects. His skyscraper designs in particular have been copied or adapted by most modern architects working in the field. He died in Chicago on August 17, 1969. 

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Revised 06-aug-2006. Ann Mette Heindorff
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