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The Essence of a Miesian Dwelling

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On November 22nd

800px Mies van der Rohe photo Farnsworth House Plano USA 1 1 The Essence of a Miesian Dwelling

A winter view of the house in 1971, showing the original insect screening of the porch, and the roller shades added by the owner after the curtains were damaged by flood waters. image via Wikimedia Commons

The Farnsworth House is a 1,500 sq.ft home designed and constructed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe between 1945-51. It is a one-room weekend retreat in a once-rural setting. The design is recognized as a masterpiece of the International Style of architecture and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006, after joining the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.  The cost of project was $74,000 in 1951 ($648,000 in 2012 dollars). There was a cost overrun of $15,600 over the approved pre-construction budget of $58,400.  This created havoc,  lawsuits and counter lawsuits  ensued until the courts ordered Dr Farnsworth to pay her bill.

 

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At his inaugural lecture as director of the department in 1938, Mies stated:

“In its simplest form architecture is rooted in entirely functional considerations, but it can reach up through all degrees of value to the highest sphere of spiritual existence into the realm of pure art.”

  This sentence summarized what had become Mies van der Rohe’s consistent approach to design: to begin with functional considerations of structure and materials, then to refine the detailing and expression of those materials until they transcended their technical origins to become a pure art of structure and space.

The dominance of a single, geometric form in a pastoral setting, with a complete exclusion of extraneous elements normally associated with habitation, reinforces the architect’s statement about the potential of a building to express “dwelling” in its simplest essence.

 

As Mies stated on his achievement, “If you view nature through the glass walls of the Farnsworth House, it gains a more profound significance than if viewed from the outside. That way more is said about nature—it becomes part of a larger whole.” Farnsworth House is the essence of simplicity in the purest form, displaying the ever-changing play of nature.

 

 

 

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image via farnsworthhouse.org http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/history.htm

 

Information for this post was obtained from the following resources:   Wikipedia          http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/history.htm

InteriorDesign: Embracing an Eclectic Style

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On August 12th
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parishotelboutique.
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Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to “mix it up” when decorating a space. An eclectic approach, or mixing it up refers  to combining seemingly disparate styles of furniture and accessories. That could include: an industrial coffee table, a Scandinavian style sofa, a mid century classic lounge chair, a vintage lighting fixture,  perhaps  an antique gilded mirror or Victorian footstool. The point is, there are many styles that play well together. Ultimately, success is achieved by blending and balancing  the elements in a way that each distinct piece is an important part of the whole, a composition of varying personalities if you will. I have always approached decorating with the philosophy that I need to have a connection to the things that I live with. The item needs to be beautiful to me, not just a functional piece. I don’t adhere to a singular era or style.

Having said all of this, I will now add some of the fine tuning details for creating your signature environment. Leonardo da Vinci is credited with the quote, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” As I have developed and honed my philosophy on decor, it has gradually grown into a simpatico with the Miesian theory of “less is more”.  I need my spaces to breathe and allow for the individual elements to shine and be seen. If you overcrowd a room with furniture or accessories it creates a heavier space with a cluttered vibe and the individual beauty of each item gets lost in the confusion.  Nothing weighs a room down more quickly then loading every flat surface with “things”.  Someone visiting my home once said, “in every direction I turn there is a thoughtful, creative, view”, and he was not speaking about gazing through the windows.

The last few things to consider are the horizontal and vertical spaces, or simply said, the walls, floor, and ceiling. They have the potential to help create your room palette, add texture, and either calm or invigorate the energy. You can stay monochromatic in the decor or not, and use large art for color, multiple photos, posters, collections of tarnished silver trays or mirrors, whatever works for you. The most important thing to remember is to always edit your work.  Keep in mind that it is a dynamic expression of you. It is changeable and adaptable to change.  Think of the room as a visual  expression of your autobiography.

 

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image via mixandchic.com

 

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image shared via thecuratedhouse.com

 

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housetohome.co.uk

 

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image via niceity.livejournal.com

 

 

 

1969 Mid Century Modern House in Iowa City: An Architects Story

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On June 7th

My dad had laughing blue eyes. We shared many amazing times together in his last years. One day, while asking him a mundane question, he turned to look at me with serious “blues” and said, “we have merged, we are one, you can think for me from now on.” This Zen moment: poignant, sad, and joyful all at the same time was  a monumental gift, a shift. I paused in silent reflection and launched into deep breathing techniques to help prepare for what was ahead….Así es La Vida

 A few years down the road, on the other side of the country, we received a different kind of gift, one that came with invisible strings. A mid-century modern house, the history of two lives, two careers, an anthropologist and an architect. Their passion for each other, their pets and nature was evident throughout the home. I discovered why we were chosen to steward their legacy from a yellow legal pad on the side of my uncle’s bed.  So many questions remain that can never be answered….once again the responsibility that is a part of the gift…breathe...C’est La Vie

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King House 1969 Architect Pierce King

In order to understand this impressive mid-century modern home, I needed to embrace this turn of events and try to be as one with this house, this land, this place. A contemporary definition of Zen: It is the state of residing in such great understanding and depth, that no matter what life throws your way, you drop the illusion and see things without the distortion of your own mind, and  you are at peace with it. I remind myself of this often, five years into this project….Live and Learn

 The bones of this interesting home are solid, strong, and impressive. I have photos of my uncle in the mid to late 1960’s hunkered down in his few acres of timbers (a reference to woods in Iowa speak), plotting how and where to place his home. IMG 0513 Version 2 621x800 1969 Mid Century Modern House in Iowa City: An Architects StoryHe removed only one tree throughout the build (he certainly would not have called his woods “timber” because it implies the potential to cut). The structure hugs and leans into the curves of the land. Approaching down the long steep lane you see virtually a giant, redwood rectangle. When you enter your eyes are drawn to angles, levels (4), light, space, and glass. The dynamic art of nature, trees and sky, completing the mood. The extensive walls of glass is a Mies van der Rohe way of extending the sight lines beyond the interior (ie Farnsworth House). To me, this home embodies the complexity of thought reduced to the simplicity of lines.

 Mies van der Rohe was my uncle’s mentor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, originally called the Armour Institute, then merging with the New Bauhaus started by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in 1937. Mies as well as Moholy-Nagy both taught at the Bauhaus in Germany before immigrating to the US.

The International style is the name of the architecture associated with the American form of Bauhaus influenced design.  Some of the characteristics of this style are:

1. No applied ornamentation

2. A rectilinear shape

3. A light open space

4. Use of concrete and glass

  On my quest to understand more about the design of this house,  I reached out to Justine Jentes, Director of the Mies van der Rohe Society at IIT in Chicago. I asked her what she sees in the design connecting it to the International Style and/or Mies van der Rohe.  This was her reply:

     ”I agree, the details and the craftsmanship are impressive. While Mies did not work with wood for structure (It was more often used for interior doors, panels, etc) the overall box design, strong right angles, extensive use of large glass planes and what appears to be flowing “open plan” interior are reminiscent of Mies design.”

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King House is all about the light….

IMG 0165 600x800 1969 Mid Century Modern House in Iowa City: An Architects Story But their is more to this house then Mies, and International design. Frank LLoyd Wright’s philosophical presence is here as well. The extensive library has several FLW books, but “The Natural House” printed in 1963, stands out.  There are some pages marked and corners folded over, more pieces of this puzzle were falling into place. His last trip shortly before he passed away was to Falling Waters.  An architect friend* and his wife took Pierce to the place he had long desired to visit.  He was infirm, and nearly fell into the “falling waters”, fortunately Dwight grabbed  him before any damage was done.

“Plainness is not necessarily simplicity”…I can feel Pierce pouring over these words in this well worn fragile book. Wright later goes on to pull this idea together by saying, “ To know what to leave out and what to put in; just where and just how, ah, that is to have been educated in knowledge of simplicity—toward ultimate freedom of expression.

 So I continue to try to understand this interesting and intriguing house but I need a better understanding of FLW.  I am researching, talking, asking questions.  Following are some anecdotes from a handful of architects. I  asked them if FLW influenced them in how they design.

 

Lira Luis AIA is a global American Architect specializing in organic architecture. While working on her Master of Architecture degree at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture,  she lived at the two Taliesins (West and in Spring Green).

  “Words that come to mind about Mr. Wright’s architecture:

  Appropriate to time and place

  True to the nature of materials

   Form and function are one

My work tends not to imitate his style but rather be inspired by his Organic Architecture Principles.”   Lira Luis AIA

 

Harold F. “BUD” Dietrich, AIA shared a wonderful story with me of how FLW touched his family….

    In the summer of 1991 I was being transferred to the Chicago office of the company I worked for.  As part of that transfer we must have looked at 100’s of houses, searching for just  the right one. We decided to look at the Chicago suburb of Oak Park to see what we thought of it and, while there, visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.

     During our tour of the Home and Studio we arrived at the 2nd floor Playroom.  This room was an addition that Wright built to accommodate his growing family.  The room was designed and built very much with a child’s sensibilities.  A fact that my five year old daughter made me aware of.  While we were standing in the playroom enjoying the sense of space and views out to the Gingko tree, my daughter tugged on my arm and said “daddy, we should buy this one.”  She was mightily disappointed when I told her the house wasn’t for sale.

    The lesson I learned was how Wright, who had a tumultuous personal life to say the least, designed remarkable homes that truly accommodated a family life.  And this fact, at the end of the day, was where his true genius was.  Bud Dietrich AIA

Dwight Dobberstein AIA

 ”To understand FLW’s greatness you have to look at the state of architectural design when he began.  Greek revival and gingerbread houses.  His buildings are the opposite, simple and clean incorporating natural materials and blending with the landscape. I like the long horizontal lines of his buildings and how they meld with their sites.

 While simple and modern, his buildings are not void of ornamentation.  There is plenty of ornamental detail beautifully incorporated in his work.  Much of the ornamentation is derived from nature which reinforces the connection to the site.

 The open floor plans flow from room to room in a seemingly simple layout yet complex organization.  Falling Water is a good example.  The plan seems easy but try to sketch it.

Dwight Dobberstein AIA

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NCARB Newsletter !979
Pierce and Dwight’s history began here…the nation’s first intern-architect to complete IDP gets certified.

The body of the house looks so International and Mies inspired, but a part of it’s heart and soul are perhaps more tied to Frank Lloyd Wright then I will ever know. This process is helping me to understand the collaboration (influence on thought and design) between Pierce, Mies, and Frank…. La dolce vita

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XOXO All Seasons

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Cheers and Chairs for 2013

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On December 31st
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Four Blue Chairs

 

I love chairs, all different kinds of chairs. It was the “Four Blue Chairs” that punctuated the turn in the road that led to being an e-tailor of chairs.  My personal collection has a sweet 70′s Thonet rocker, a pair of well worn and loved Siesta chairs by Ingmar Relling, an antique rocker from West Virginia, a pair of Otto Gerdau beechwood chairs, mid-century wrought iron chairs, and a handful of other mid mo chairs that have come along for the ride!

Mies ven der Rohe is often quoted for saying, “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. ” and since he designed both I take him at his word. The chair is the ultimate example of form and function…..

So friends, CHEERS and CHAIRS and a Happy 2013 !

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Mies van der Rohe Chocolate Cake Day Bed created by Leandro Erlich #3   Mies van der Rohe: Mid Century Design   Glass and Steel Architect Extraordinaire

This is the third installment of “Mid-Century Modern Furniture Evolution: 8 Designers Who Changed the Industry” which can be downloaded as a FREE eBook.

In your journey through the world of modern furniture, you may have heard about the “Barcelona X Chair”. This famous mid-century design was created by Mies van der Rohe. Born in Germany on March 27, 1886, Ludwieg Mies van der Rohe was an avant garde supporter and creator of modern art and architecture. He is known today as one of the leading and most influential exponents of the refined glass-and-steel architecture of the mid-20th-century.

Mies was famous for his use of…

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Nine More Reasons To Love Mies van der Rohe

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On March 26th

If you love Mies as we do then  we are  pleased to direct you to this awesome article. The photography is by Corine Vermeulen ( for Placement Project), and produced by Whitney Dangerfield of the New York Times.  Credit should also be given to the audio by Danielle Aubert. Make sure to read the related article and the comments, and hoorah, there will be a book by the talented women at Placement (www.placementpublication.org), Danielle Aubert, Lana Cavar, and Natasha Chandani.

If These links do not work use the Blogroll linkswell worth the viewing

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/10/15/opinion/20101015_Lafayette.html

http://www.opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/14/living-with-mies/

There are so many interesting aspects to this piece. For starters, we revisit an important part of the Mid Century Modern Movement in America, and learn some of the why’s and how’s of its beginnings.  We also experience a socio/cultural view of life and lifestyles in Lafayette Park.  This is a feast for the senses between the audio and visual experiences and the “stories” of those currently residing there.  Take the time to read the comments  at the end of the article.  There is a vast array of emotions expressed in the comments and some strong opinions about Mies Architecture.

My growing interest in anything Mies comes from inheriting a home built by an architect who studied with Mies in Chicago.  Please visit us at  http://www.pgmod.com to learn more, and check out,  “About”, http://www.pgmod.com/content/4-about-us If you have a minute I would love to hear your comments about how these mini visits into the lives of the current residents of Lafayette Park  resonates with your interests in  the Mid Century Modern experience.

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