Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe gets a Google Doodle

March 27, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • Google's latest doodle celebrates the late architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Google's latest doodle celebrates the late architect Ludwig Mies… (Google )

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe receives an homage in today's Google Doodle. The German-born modernist architect would have turned 126 today.

The doodle -- a drawing of a rectangular glass and steel structure with the word Google just barely visible imprinted on the building -- is based on S.R. Crown Hall in Chicago, one of Mies' most celebrated structures.

The building houses the Illinois Institute of Technology's College of Architecture and was completed in 1956, when Mies served as the head of the architectural department of the school, then called the Armour Institute of Technology.

Made of steel and infilled with glass with varying degrees of transparency, the two-story building has enclosed spaces downstairs, but the upstairs is a wide-open architectural studio with 18-foot ceilings. (Imagine the light and the airiness!) Time magazine described the building as "one of the world's most influential, inspiring and astonishing structures."

Other celebrated works by Mies include the 38-story Seagram Building in New York City, commissioned in 1958 by the Seagram Co.; the Farnsworth House, a 1,500-square-foot weekend retreat in Plano, Ill., commissioned in 1945 by Dr. Edith Farnsworth and now a National Historic Landmark; and the chrome-and-leather Barcelona chair, an enduring centerpiece of stylish living rooms worldwide.

Mies was born Ludwig Mies in Aachen, Germany, in 1886. He started his own architectural firm in 1912 in Berlin -- eventually changing his name to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1921, perhaps as a way to impress his wealthy clients.

While many of his early designs were neoclassical structures, he eventually went on to join the German avant-garde. He became director of the Werkbund -- a group of German group of designers, artists and architects -- and directed construction of the Weissenhof Estate in 1927, which was touted as a prototype of workers' houses of the future.

Mies was director of the German architectural school Bauhaus, but he had trouble getting work in the 1930s as the Nazi party denounced his ideas as un-German.

He came to the U.S. in 1937 and settled in Chicago, where he accepted a job as head of the architectural department at the Armour Institute of Technology.

After World War II, he became one of the most significant designers of American skyscrapers.

He is closely (and awesomely) associated with the phrases "less is more" and "God is in the details."


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