Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - ahead of his time?



I have to do a project for school and would like to hear your opinions..

The question is: To what extent Mies van der Rohe was ahead of his time.


I am not quite sure whtether MDVR was ahead of his time because there are several arguments for both sides.

For example his first projects (e.g. House Riehl from 1907) was inspired by Schinkel and definitely not ahead of the time in terms of innovative thinking.

However, the "Wabe" (his contribution to a competition for a skyscraper in Berlin) seems to be very futuristic and ahead of the time. It was also his first work using the "skin and bones" architecture.

In 1929 of course, MVDR built the famous "Barcelona-Pavilion". I am not sure though if the building was ahead of the time, since several other architects built in a similar way. 


I would appreciate it if I got some advice.



Apr 4, 13 9:38 am

your instructor has given you an intentionally unresolvable question. you need to have an opinion and then argue it.

with a good amount of research (which is probably expected here) you could effectively argue EITHER position and be on pretty stable ground. 

Apr 4, 13 2:28 pm  · 

"with a good amount of research (which is probably expected here) you could effectively argue EITHER position and be on pretty stable ground. " -agreed

Architecture many times is abt research - Get busy!!

Apr 4, 13 2:50 pm  · 
vado retro

mies was in and of his time.

Apr 4, 13 3:45 pm  · 

yup, he even said it himself. 

"Architecture is the will of the epoch translated into space"

Apr 4, 13 3:49 pm  · 

I wouldn't say "ahead of his time", because those who are are only appreciated later. Mies was very much at the forefront in his time, turning out buildings recognized as masterpieces, as director of the Bauhaus, head of architecture at ITT, and a pioneer in designing furniture specifically for his buildings. 

Apr 4, 13 4:24 pm  · 
boy in a well

mies kicked the zeit in its geist. why don't you argue how the Riehl house is secretly awesome, I mean innovative, but that mies didn't want anyone to realize it until the future.

Apr 5, 13 8:21 am  · 

Less time is more work.

Apr 5, 13 9:28 am  · 

Thank you very much for the response! 

@Spike Cyclone: How could I argue that the Riehl house was innovative if it was inspired by Schinkel?

Was Mies van der Rohe recognized as a masterful architect during his time? If yes, I would agree with Miles Jaffe that he wasn't ahead of his time. I already did a lot of research but couldn't find much on whether MVDR was recognized as a masterful architect during his time.

Thank you again for your opinions!


Apr 6, 13 10:51 am  · 

The commissions he got tell you how well respected he was.

As do the teaching positions, things were different then.

Apr 6, 13 2:11 pm  · 

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - ahead of his time?


Apr 6, 13 2:34 pm  · 

there are tons of books on how he was ahead of his time.  I have 3 of them on my bookshelf.  it's a trick question right? 

his biography by Franz schulze is pretty good read.  start there. 

his early work was derivative, coming from shinkel and other sill living contemporaries.  eventually he took a decision to become a modernist and voila, innovations all over the place.  ahead of his time though?  not if you believe in the zeitgeist...except maybe those towers.  they were pretty something.  good graphics too.

Apr 7, 13 7:49 pm  · 

Peter Behrens was ahead of his time. Gropius, Mies and Corbu were his students, and their work is the direct result of his teaching.

Apr 7, 13 7:55 pm  · 
love behrens. yes!
Apr 7, 13 8:17 pm  · 

And whoever designed Chicago's Lake Point Tower was supposedly a disciple of Mies, or am I wrong?  What a building:  simple, elegant, and powerful.

Apr 7, 13 8:35 pm  · 

observant, in those days everyone was a student of mies.

behrens was way cool. love his industrial designs. supposedly mies worked out the end wall for the turbine hall but its hard to tell if that is post-coital reification or just mies  trying to take credit (he hinted that he did it in an interview once), or a mix of both. 

mies was an awesome architect and an even better communicator.  his generation really worked out the media-driven career for our times. 

he like the robert johnson of modernism.  FLW is Son House.

Apr 8, 13 2:34 am  · 

Schinkel was the influencer of Mies in a deeper sense, Schinkel was also Behrens' idol. And let's not forget the creative exchanges took a place in the Bauhaus and Europe in general. Even a guy from US, FLW, had a role in these exchanges.. Yes Mies was ahead of his time but so were most of his colleagues.

Altes Museum, Berlin, 1830, architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel 

Apr 8, 13 3:27 am  · 

to my original point/post: subsequent posters seem to have all helped spencerstar1 build arguments for 'ahead of his time' and 'of his time'. 

i'd like to provoke some discussion of mies relative to his peers and their...timeliness? 

was mies more than a stylist, for instance? steel frame construction was a known thing, already allowing a free plan approach. glass enclosures were in the air, explored by a myriad weimar architects coming out of the expressionist and jugendstil camps. 

by comparison corb developed not only a analytically derived and hugely influential vocabulary (five points) *and* extended and promoted behrens' borrowing of inspiration from machines and industry, but also pushed the limits of material use: introducing use of concrete before it was fully cooked, for instance.

and, while mies and corb both were subject to the craft industry of the time, either designing their own pieces and parts custom or buying from one-off craft manufacturers, it was gropius who - using the bauhaus as his soapbox, but also in his own work/writing - pushed the mass-production aspect of things. not only did he pursue prefab and modular before just about anyone but, for better or worse, he probably drove the construction industry toward standard material dimensions and off-the-shelf everything through his explorations and influential writing. 

i'm truly under-educated on mies, i'll admit. as a stylist, i think he was brilliant. his interpretations of free plan and glass box are sublime. extending the chicago style, revealing the steel instead of covering it, was artful. but was he doing something really disruptive? was he a synthesist, finding the zeitgeist among others innovations and presenting it back to us? 

Apr 8, 13 7:25 am  · 

hm, not sure if style was really his thing at all steven.  he sure did understand style and like corbu was classically trained, so presumably he could make decisions based on a known code.  but i think he was more interested in making a new code that was not yet clear.  Not what people might think either - he was not a structural rationalist for instance, and instead after something less easy to understand by his clients... ironically as a result of his approach he was in the end fired from his position as architect for his own IIT campus (SOM was more pliant and took the job from him - THEY were stylists, even then).

The coolest thing about the dude, at least for me, is that once he came up with a good solution he no longer pursued a problem.  Like the chairs designed around the time he was building the Brno house - he figured he had resolved the problem and for him it did not need to be considered again.  A stylist could not comprehend that way of working.  It was the same for his houses and his towers.  He worked out the solution and then didn't try to revisit the solutions.  Its quite amazing to imagine that approach to design.  I have a hard time agreeing with it even though it worked for him.

With the disruption thing, when it came to the Chicago style I don't think he extended it so much as developed a new version of towers altogether.  His approach was to use the qualities of glass as starting point, not steel.  That was kind of new, maybe as new as LeCorbusier starting with plastic concrete, even.  There were others out there doing related things, but I don't think anyone really came close to gaining on his lead.  Quite impressive.

I can understand why Koolhaas continues to steal from him.

Apr 8, 13 10:00 am  · 

Mies and his contemporaries were trying to utilize the promise of mass production to create a utopian society. Style was a function of craft, in this case industrial technology. The purpose was not to create fashionable (and by definition obsolete) goods for the next shopping season or to increase consumption, but to create durable, well-made industrial products that would lead the world in a new direction. Very different from the consumable/consumer society we have today. This was in the context of global effects of WWI, which brought social needs and utopia ideals to the forefront of creative thought, and industrial processes seemed an ideal solution to the problems of time.

Corbu’s 5 points were largely based on the application of industrial architecture to housing. The most meaningful (for me) were rooftop gardens intended to replace the ground lost to the building, a concept that anticipated future environmental needs and movements. Unfortunately, his unrecognized sixth point – designing around the automobile - more than defeated this ideal.

It’s interesting to look at other utopian movements of the time like De Stijl and the transformation of modernism into an avant-garde style.

Apr 8, 13 12:52 pm  · 

observant, in those days everyone was a student of mies.

I had heard sort of a right-hand man or hand-picked.  Don't know the architect, but I'm guessing an IIT grad.  Still, one of the coolest buildings in Chicago.  Possibly because it stands alone, which makes it stand out.

Apr 8, 13 1:27 pm  · 

Mies knew what he was talking about.

Apr 8, 13 2:43 pm  · 

yes.  yes he did.

Apr 8, 13 5:40 pm  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: