Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Van der Rohe in Berlin and New York City

"I don't want to be interesting.
I want to be good."
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
1886-1969

Seagram Building

I've always admired the work of Mies van der Rohe. His minimal architectural designs of industrial steel and glass have influenced twentieth century architecture around the word. Today, his "skin and bones" style dots the skylines of most cities.


Both New York City and Berlin have excellent examples of his work. The Seagram Building, located at 375 Park Avenue between 53th and 52th streets, is New York City's only van der Rohe design (done in collaboration with Philip Johnson). It's easy to miss. It doesn't have the wow factor of the Chrysler or Empire State Building, but its beauty lies in its simplicity. It seems to float in the air, held together by a skeleton of steel beams and plate glass. Its interior is equally impressive with its generous use of natural light and open space. 
Seagram Plaza


The Seagram plaza is also famous. The film Social Life of Small Urban Spaces is studied by most landscape architecture students. It records the daily pattern of people socializing around the plaza, and shows how people actually use space as opposed to the intent of the landscape architect. 


Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie is another example of a van der Rohe work. Again, this almost nondescript building belies its beauty. It floats in the middle of a spare plaza. The generous use of glass allows for natural light fill the ground floor and the exhibition galleries below. Above all, this building shows how form follows function: not a square inch wasted.

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