Published  05/12/2002

Mies van der Rohe

The forthcoming exhibition at the Whitechapel, London (10 December 2002 - 2 March 2003) Mies van der Rohe 1905-38 is a definitive retrospective of his career in Europe. This is the first such show in Britain, bringing together 38 important projects dating from his arrival in Berlin in 1905 to his departure for America in 1938. Included are elegant villas, and prototype skyscrapers and his famous German Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exposition.

RUFF, Thomas. w.h.s.02 (Weissenhof Apartment House, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect). View of street facade. 2000. 51 3/16 x 67" (130 x 170 cm). Collection of the artist.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the doorway of the Riehl Hiouse, c. 1910. Gift of the architect. Mies van der Rohe Archive, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Copyright 2001 The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Whitechapel Gallery

Mies was only 20 when he designed and built the first of many domestic projects that characterised his career in Germany. In the ten years after World War I, he embraced new technology - glass, concrete, steel - as a 'means towards spiritual purpose'. In 1921, he proposed the first high-rise building clad entirely in glass. Through magazines such as the famous G Magazine - he belonged to a community of artists who included Theo van Doesburg, Georg Grosz and Man Ray. The Whitechapel exhibition also includes works by these artists. Mies van der Rohe played a seminal role in the artistic community. In 1927, in Stuttgart, he organised the Werkbund Exposition which brought together architects, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius.

Architecture is the will of an epoch translated in space. Alive. Changing. New. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, only today be given form… Create form out of the nature of our tasks with the method of our time. This is our task. (Mies van der Rohe, 1923)

Mies is well known for his teaching role at the Bauhaus School of Art and Design. He was the last Director there before the Nazis closed it in 1933. He was one of Europe's leading architects and yet when he left Europe for America he did so on his brother's passport, virtually penniless. The Whitechapel exhibition is an important re-evaluation of Mies van der Rohe's contribution to modern architecture, especially to the community of artists and the idea of the metropolis. The show includes work by architects Pete Behrens, Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Frank Lloyd Wright - all of whom influenced Mies.

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