Happy 126th Birthday to one of the architects I admire most, Mies van der Rohe! I ran across a story a few years ago on Apartment Therapy (a design site that I humbly admit to secretly loving) about a New York gallery art/cake exhibition which featured a layer cake with hints of cream, coffee, and liquor, coated in leathery chocolate frosting (om nom nom), and formed in the shape of the iconic Barcelona Couch. I wonder what Mies would have thought of such a spectacle.
As I work through my mound of structures notes, equations, and theories, I can’t help but reflect on the innovation Mies brought to the art of construction. The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago are one of my favorite works of 20th century architecture, primarily for the honest expression of its structure. The steel grid is articulated from facade to facade, and mullions (which, depending on who you ask, are considered ornamentation and therefore unnecessary in the Less-is-More mentality) form a hierarchical elevation. Floor to ceiling glazing allow for views (and I assume serious $$$ heating/cooling bills). In a world full of buildings trying to “be” something, I truly appreciate the simplicity of the form and how its technique is not concealed, but rather celebrated.
And celebrate we will, today. Could someone pass me a slice of cake?
Edit: A friend posted the following on my Facebook wall and I had to include it here:
“Philip Johnson used to tell a story… He went over to Mies’ place in Chicago and was aghast to find in the middle of the room not a Barcelona couch but, horror of horrors, a Barcalounger. When he asked Mies what in the world was going on and why Mies’ own furniture wasn’t in this wonderful modern space, Mies somewhat sheepishly replied, “Well, it’s just not very comfortable.””