When it comes to the big names of twentieth century design, they don't come much bigger than Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. A pioneering and hugely influential architect and a dedicated and passionate educator and furniture designer.
Mies was, first and foremost, an architect. Even before taking on the influential role of Director of Architecture at the Bauhaus Design School, he had already been architectural director of the Werkbund, and had helped to found the architectural association Der Ring.
His most famous furniture designs include the cantilever MR10 chair, the Barcelona suite of furniture, the Brno chair and the 248L chaise.
These pieces reflect the same philosophical underpinnings that drove his architecture. Both are concerned with the use of space, their forms being defined as much by the space around them as by the structure of the chairs themselves, and employ a striking combination of sleek modernist steel and luxurious leather.
Mies's overarching ambition was to establish a style of design that would represent modern times, much as Classical and Gothic did for their own eras. In many ways he achieved this ambition, but we like to think that he also transcended it, creating designs that appear far more timeless than timely. Mies moved to Berlin in 1905. There, he joined the office of Bruno Paul, where he learned furniture design. In 1908, he took a job with Peter Behrens; his colleagues in that office included Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. Mies went into private practice in 1913, adding the more impressive Rohe, his mother´s maiden name.
Mies, often in collaboration with Lilly Reich, designed furniture for many of his early projects, and most is still in production today. In particular, furnishings for the Tugendhat House and the Barcelona Pavilion have become design icons.