Mies van der Rohe: A Pillar of 20th Century Architecture

Webster’s online dictionary defines the word “pillar” as a person or thing regarded as reliably providing essential support for something.” As it pertains to 20th century architecture, this description fits the German-American architect Mies van Der Rohe. Other pillars that provided essential support for the growth of 20th century architecture were Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. However, Rohe has received the least recognition of the three in popular culture. Sure the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair is a highly sought after piece among collectors with a sense of taste, but his brilliance and influence is appreciated almost exclusively in the worlds of architecture and popular design. In order to correct that inequity and to honor what will be his 131st birthday this month; here are a few details about the life of Mies.Chair


Mies was born the youngest of five children in Aachen, Germany on March 27, 1886. As a lad, he worked in his father’s stone carving shop and attended a local Catholic school. Later he received vocational training at the Gewerbeschule in Aachen. Eventually, Mies served in the military in WWI as an architect and later became a well known architect in Germany. By the 1920s, Mies would become an important architect practicing in the avant-garde style. At this time Mies joined the Bauhaus movement and embraced socialist ideas as well as philosophies about art and design. By 1929, Mies and German modernist designer, Lilly Reich, would collaborate to create his now famous Barcelona chair for the International Exposition of 1929. From its very inception the chair was designed for luxury minded people. Today, owning one is still considered to be essential for students of architecture and for people who crave opulence and lavishness.


From the late 20s to the 40s, Mies continued to design structures such as the German Pavilion in Barcelona Spain. Later in his life, Mies immigrated to the United States settling in Chicago, Illinois. There he ran a school of architecture for what is now the Illinois Institute of Technology. Mies died on August 17, 1969 after a long battle with cancer. Today his highly coveted Barcelona chair with its chrome and steel frame and leather cushions filled with foam can be purchased on our site as can items like a Marcel Breuer chair.