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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - Modern Architect (March 27 1886 - died August 17 1969) Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, like so many influential artists, cannot be easily classified. While he had a defining influence on modern architecture, and especially the evolution of the skyscraper, he was more interested in intensifying an individual's experience of a space than in using architecture as a tool for social transformation. Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe appealed to the ideal of nature, creating a connection to the natural realm through subtle resonances between his materials -- stone, glass, steel -- and the surrounding elements of water, light, and space. Attempting to describe the role of architecture in modernity, Mies van der Rohe said that "it was not the task of architecture to invent form...we knew it was a question of truth, we tried to find out what truth really was." For him, truth was a spiritual ideal, yet one bound up in the material world; he took guidance from a saying of St. Thomas Aquinas: "Truth is the significance of fact." This (slightly opaque) statement informs all of Mies van der Rohe's work, as his buildings invoke the fact, and the beauty, of nature. In a description of his Tugendhat house, he wrote: "When I allow these spaces and all that is in them to affect me as a whole, then I have the clear impression: this is beauty, this is truth." Mies van der Rohe's delineation of beauty emerges out of the dialog he initiates between the artificial and the natural, creating a "bizarre sense of the real." In his Magdeburg house (unbuilt), "foreground and background were compressed together by 'capturing' the distant view of the river." In a project for a Tyrolean mountain house, "Minimalist forms and transparent planes were juxtaposed with the rugged drama of the surrounding Alpine peaks." Mies van der Rohe's stated spiritual goal, "to bring Nature, man, and architecture together into a higher Unity," made his ultimate move from Bauhaus director in Nazi Germany to partner of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesen seem inevitable. When he first saw the view from Wright's Wisconsin studio, he is reported as exclaiming: "Oh what a realm of freedom!" Miesvan der Rohe was not the first architect to practice simplicity in design, but he carried the ideals of rationalism and minimalism to new levels. His glass-walled Farnsworth House near Chicago stirred controversy and legal battles. His bronze and glass Seagram Building in New York City (designed in collaboration with Philip Johnson) is considered America's first glass skyscraper. And, his philosophy that "less is more" became a guiding principle for architects in the mid- twentieth century. Mies's phrase "less is more" became the essence of mid-20th-century architecture.
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