From Am Karlsbad 24 to the Tugendhat House : Mies van der Rohe’s quest for a new form of living

Xiong, Xiangnan
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The present dissertation investigates Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s domestic work in relation to his lifestyle and the contemporary discourse of modern living. In so doing, it provides a more variegated picture of Mies and demonstrates that a quest for a new form of living underlay his architectural development in the 1920s. Mies underwent a remarkable transition in architectural thought in the mid-1920s. It resulted in a new ordering in factors that shaped his architecture: he enthroned spirituality as the goal of his work and shifted his inspirational source from modern technology to modern life. At the time, Mies led a flexible and manifold life in a traditional Berlin apartment at Am Karlsbad 24, and he felt its static spatial arrangement could hardly cope with his liberated lifestyle. This experience led him to believe that modern living featured a constant adaption to the changing life circumstances, and, thus, modern dwellings should be made flexible enough to allow these adaptions. Therefore, in his apartment building for the Weissenhof housing exhibition in 1927, Mies created the device of moveable walls that enabled inhabitants to adapt the spatial layout to their changing needs and in so doing, affirmed a flexible lifestyle. Alongside meeting the practical demands of modern living, Mies also sought to fulfill its spiritual needs. A series of contemporary discussions on intellectual potentials of modern life led him to keep a distance from the prevalent functionalist approach and instead seek to evoke a sense of spirituality in dwellings. In the Tugendhat House in 1929, Mies, in masterfully manipulating interior reflective materials and exterior landscape view, created a contemplative ambience. In so doing, he proposed a thoroughly transformed domesticity that was centered on reflection, self-consciousness, and inward-looking. In demonstrating Mies’s architectural development as one that strove to affirm an emerging lifestyle and then elevate it onto a spiritual plateau, this study brings out a new, cultural value that constituted the heart of Mies’s work.