Category: Mies van der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe’s only building in Washington,D.C.

Late in his career, Mies was commissioned to design the main D.C. public library, named in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.  In contrast to Mies’s better known projects such as the Seagrams Building, a moderately tall skyscraper in New York City, and 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, upscale housing towers, the library is only four stories above ground.  But all three projects display Mies’s trademark emphasis on a highly visible gridded facade.  In Seagrams and MLK Library the facades had a strong vertical emphasis created by steel i-beams welded on to the frame.

Mies, who was awarded the AIA Gold Medal and Royal Gold Medal, among numerous other recognitions as a leading Modernist architect, designed the building from 1965-1966, ground broken July 1968, and the library opened either August or September 1972. (Various sources site different key dates for this building.)

The building very recently closed for renovation (including roof garden and floor plans) and will only reopen in 2020.  Washingtonia Collection is at the DC Historical Society’s space at the Carnegie Library.

The architect for the renovation is Martinez and Johnson.  The architectural historian is Traceries.

Top photo shows G Street (main facade at left) and 9th Street side.  Bottom photo showing I beams detail on 9th Street.  photos copyrighted by Bill Lebovich, 2017MLK Library06072017 (2).jpgIMG_3377.jpg

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Mies van der Rohe

One Charles Center was designed by Mies van der Rohe and dates to 1962.  It is one of the most visible and prominent buildings in the city and a major element,if not the major element ,

in the architectural renewal of the city.

Two New York City architectural masterpieces

LeverBros(DXO) Lever Bros. (SOM)8Seagramstower Seagrams BuildingTwo of the most important modern buildings stand  nearly opposite each other; the Lever Brothers Building at 390 Park Ave. and the Seagrams Building at 375.  The Lever Brothers Building, designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and is slighter earlier (1952,completion) and Mies van der Rohe’s Seagrams is dated 1958.  The later is probably the better known and more highly regarded.  Mies violated the continuous facade line along the east side of Park Ave by setting his building much farther back and raised on a plinth.  Combined with the bronze and gold tones of the glass and metal and squarish plan, the building was and remains a dramatic  vision.  But the Lever Brothers is more innovative as it broke with the tradition of buildings covering the entire footprint of the site.  Instead, Bunshaft lifted on columns a two story massing that covered the site.  The rest of the building is limited to a rectangular skyscraper with its narrow side facing the Avenue. But importantly, the smaller Lever Brothers facade is more attractively proportioned and more pleasing it the eye in comparison with the repetitiveness and heaviness of the decorative vertical I-beams and tall horizontal panels.  Bunshaft created a building of human scale;  van der Rohe apparently did not share that concern. (c)Bill Lebovich, all rights reserved,2014