If a group of architects, designers, and planners get their way—and successfully raise $2.25 million—then an early Mies van der Rohe designed house could be rebuilt. The lost structure would be reborn as the first Mies museum in Europe. Built long before his famous American works like the Farnsworth House and IBM Plaza, the Wolf House stood for nearly two decades in Guben, a town in eastern Germany at the border near Poland. The town was divided after World War II between Germany (Guben) and Poland (Gubin) as the Soviet Army pressed in from the east. In 1945, the Wolf family—that commissioned the Mies house and lived in it—left. The house was demolished soon after. Some designers see the Wolf House and its flat roof as a pivotal part of Mies’ oeuvre: when his architecture turned more experimental and broke from the typical residential architectural language of the era (pitched roofs, porches, roaring 1920s opulence). Others worry a plan to reconstruct the Wolf House is unrealistic, that anything built would be an incomplete reconstruction. The New York Times reports that “the debate has particular resonance in Germany, where reconstruction of structures destroyed in World War II has been a contentious issue, with some critics characterizing reconstruction as an attempt to erase memories of Nazism.” This would not be the first plan for rebuilding a Mies project: the Barcelona Pavilion, built for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, was up for less than a year before it was dismantled. A group of Spanish architects rebuilt the pavilion in the mid-1980s.
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More than 50 years after its construction, the single-largest collection of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's built work is now a national landmark. The National Park Service on Tuesday designated Detroit's Lafayette Park its 2,564th National Historic Landmark, validating the efforts of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, which began the documentation and nomination process in 2012. Quinn Evans Architects of Ann Arbor led those efforts as part of the preservation group's Michigan Modern Project. A collection of buildings in the now-ubiquitous International Style, Lafayette Park first cut its steel-and-glass silhouette across the Detroit skyline in 1959 with the completion of the Pavilion Apartments. More structures followed, including some which still command high rents today. As reports the Detroit Free Press:
The two-story Mies Townhouses are some of the more desirable pieces of real estate in Detroit, routinely fetching $150,000-$200,000 a pop for the three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath units. The twin Lafayette Towers were added to the skyline in 1963. There are also a number of other buildings in the development designed by other architects, though they all follow Mies' lead.The buildings received their landmark status in part for their racial integration—a rare example of urban renewal done right, according to Ruth Mills, architectural historian for Quinn Evans. Again, the Free Press' Dan Austin:
Indeed, U.S. Rep. "Charles Diggs, (Judge) Wade McCree, Judge George Crockett and others all lived in Lafayette Park," said Ken Coleman, an author and expert on black history in Detroit. "Even Berry Gordy had a condo there by 1965."
Big projects command the most media attention, but small works of art and architecture can still make a splash. That’s the ethos of AIA Chicago’s fourth annual Small Projects Awards, which last week named 13 honorees among 96 entries that included Chinatown’s new boathouse, a barn-like complement to Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house, and an un-built “Safe House” for tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri. The winners fell into one of five categories: 1,001-5,000 Square Feet, 500 Square Feet and Under, 501-1,000 Square Feet, Objects, Un-built Buildings. (Last year's winners.) Little You is a speech therapy center built with a modest budget of $154 per square foot. Made of black manganese modular brick and clear anodized aluminum, the modern building embraces the neighborhood’s 50s-era commercial building stock. Mies’ archetypal modernist home, the Farnsworth House, is sinking. While preservationists decide how to minimize damages from future floods, the Barnsworth Exhibition Center provides temporary exhibition space for Edith Farnsworth’s wardrobe. Recycled lumber scraps from the circular-plan barn went to create an end-grain floor. Not attempting to out-Mies Mies, the Barnsworth instead nods to the site’s agrarian setting. Safe House won the un-built buildings category for its mission to provide refuge from storms like the tornado that destroyed much of Joplin, Missouri in 2011. Built with insulated concrete forms, from foundation to exterior walls to roof, the efficient construction method reduces energy bills by 50 percent, according to designers Wrap Architecture. The concrete roof is left exposed, pattern imprinted and sealed. Screens are rated to wind forces of 175 mph, so a safe room is included for the most severe storms. Read about all the entries here.