Mies van der Rohe - Toronto

Not to Scale
  The building illustrated on the left is 50 ft square; the one shown
  to its right is 720 ft square. Although they differ greatly in
  magnitude and in function--they are respectively a one-family house
  and a 50,000 seat convention hall--these two buildings clearly
  belong together and speak a single language.

  Four reasons at least may be seen to have contributed towards this

  First: Constructional clarity and athletic repose-- characteristics
  associated with civil engineering more often than with
  architecture--have appeared through the remevol of all unecessary
  weight. 'We took all unecessary weight out of the buildings to make
  them as light as possible'. Mies van der Rohe said. 'It is often
  thought that heaviness is synonymous with strength. In my opinion it
  is just the opposite.'

  Second: The materials used are industrially produced and the manner
  in which they are used acknowledges the specific nature of each.

  Third: The structural systems employed are in accordance with the
  requirements of the respective functions, and the components of
  these systems are revealed both internally and externally.

  Fourth: To commplement this structural clarity, the enclosing skins
  and interior space dividers are separately defined from the stressed
  members, leaving no doubt as to what is structural and what is not.

  --- For both the house and the convention hall, parallel generative
  impulses such as these have elicited a special kind of order; an
  order which permeates the whole building fabric, illuminating each
  part as necessary and inevitable. This order should not be confused
  with that which is derived from mere constructional organisation;
  rather, it may be more accurately described as the order of a
  structural organism.

  The principle of structural order had been germane to all of the
  great architectural epochs. Being both morphological and organic it
  is a condition where form becomes a consequence of structure and
  not the reason for construction. Mies van der Rohe believed that
  structure in this sense is a philosophical concept: 'The whole, from
  top to bottom, to the last detail, with the same ideas.'

  'The physicist Schrodinger said of general principles that the
  creative vigour of a general principle depends precisely on its
  generality. And that is exactly what I mean when I talk about
  structure in architecture. It is not a special solution. It is a
  general idea. And although each building is a single solution, it is
  not motivated as such.'

  In attempting to clarify this idea further, Mies van der Rohe often
  used the analogy of language: 'A living language can be used for
  normal day to day purposes as prose. If you are very good at that
  you may speak a wonderful prose. If you are really good you can be a
  poet. But it is the same language, and its characteristic is that it
  has all these possibilities.'

  ...Mies often drew his students' attention to the fact that the
  first flying buttresses ere hidden under aisle roofs, they were
  considered merely constructional means for restraining the thrusts
  of the nave vaults. Later, when the vaults were lifted higher, and
  then higher still, the buttresses greatly increased in size
  and--since it now became difficult to hide them any longer--they
  were accepted as visual elements of the architecture. Thus,
  constructional necessity was translated into structural art.

          | Mies van der Rohe, Phiadon Press, London, 1974, pp. 8-10.
          | The Goetheanum Buildings

Back to Storm's Journal

SUBMIT AN ARTICLE posted: july 31, 2001