Monday, February 13, 2012

Mies Van Der Rohe

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Mies Van Der Rohe’s non-rhetorical influence

During the early to mid-100s, modernist architecture was commonly being linked strongly with technical innovation and standardisation. It was a new face for architecture that, in contrast with the more traditional formalist architecture, had attracted a lot of attention both positively and negatively. Not only this, but it was attacked from several different angles.

While LeCorbusier treated the new architecture as an engineering project and others like the Italians confronted it from a more traditional plain, Mies Van Der Rohe and those he influenced took a less formal stance with their work. Realising that such problems many practitioners set-out to solve were unsolvable, Mies adopted a unique flavour in his work that both worked with the present as well as embracing new technologies. For his whole career he kept to a simple theme of “less is more” and in turn set the stage for the every-growing minimalist movement. Flying in the face of a current Western obsession with presentation, this conventional and rationalist approach for architecture was totally new and broke-down many new barriers when it came to exploiting the capabilities of pre-standardised components.

Mies never liked to use the word ‘design’ and preferred to see his projects as ‘building’ projects. With this, his works were very similar, yet very different on a close scale. While works such as the Lakeside Towers in Chicago and the Seagram building in New York appeared to share a common façade treatment, the materials and fittings on a small scale varied. With the apartments, each room would be fitted with a grey shutter blind for two reasons. One was for occupant comfort and the other was to create a variation and patterning system with the façade depending on how the various tenants would have their blinds set.

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The next-to-naked profile of Mies’s minimalist style allows for features like this to become prominent, yet still subtle features where in many other styles they would be drowned-out completely. But it was not only Mies who has created famous minimalist-style architecture over the last 70 years. Another popular minimalist is Peter Smithson, who along with his wife and practicing partner Alison designed the award-winning Hunstanton School building in England. This school was recognized for it’s strong modernist departure from traditional school building architecture with the use of expansive glass facades and steel framework. It was particularly well received for its rigid lines and intelligent layout. The ‘brutalist’ exterior proved popular with users although did pose significant problems in terms of heat and cold transmission through the glass during extreme weather.

It was the overall notion of Mies’s “less is more” concept that fuelled the project in Hunstanton and like Mies’s work, the sense of ‘numb forces’ and ‘absence’ becomes apparent. It was this sense if silence, shock and finiteness that resulted from Mie’s understanding that human kind’s desire for a ‘correct form and sense of order’ cannot be found. The architecture is almost an example of potentiality in itself and a guiding point of how far we have progressed ‘so far’. It is not, however, an attempt to create that perfect solution.

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