381 CHRONICIESnJerry-Built America by Fred Butzenn”By their fruits, so shall ye know them.”n— Jesus of NazarethnMies van der Robe: A CriticalnBiography hy Franz Schulze,nChicago: University of ChicagonPress.nThe year 1986 marked the 100thnanniversary of the birth of LudwignMies, the man who, under the name ofnMies van der Rohe, did the most tonshape modern American architecture.nOf the numerous books that markedn•fe-/; •»,,n••’MnFred Butzen is a technical writer for anpublisher of computer languages andnoperating systems.nthis occasion, perhaps the most importantnis the biography by Franz Schulze,na scholar and critic of contemporarynarchitecture. Thorough, honest, gracefullynwritten, richly illustrated, and wellndesigned, it invites a reevaluation ofnMies’s work as the most catastrophicnfailure of art in the 20th century,nsuited Mies well, for he was drawn tonwhere the spirit of the times was manifestingnitself most powerfully — i.e., tonwhere “the action” was. In the 1920’s,nthe action was certainly among thenradicals.nFrom 1918 to 1927, Mies workednmainly on theoretical projects whichnattracted attention at exhibitions. Inn1926, he built the first of his works innthe modern, geometric style: a monumentnto Karl Liebknecht and RosanLuxemburg. Photographs indicate thatnthe monument was visually compelling,nif one ignores the huge steelnhammer and sickle at its side. Miesndoes not appear to have been a Communistnor committed to any causenother than himself and his work; rather,nhe would work for nearly anyonenwho gave him artistic latitude. It isnnoteworthy that his first modernist designnto be built is more a sculpture thanna building.nIn 1927, Mies was named artisticndirector of the Weissenhofseidlung, anmodel housing project near Stuttgart.nMies solicited work from many radicalnyoung architects; their designs meshednso well that they seemed to embody ann”international style”—by which namenthis school is best known. In 1929,nMies built his most highly praisednwork, the German Pavilion for thenBarcelona World’s Fair. The “BarcelonanPavilion” stood only for six monthsnand was used only once, but it is stillnnamed one of the greatest of all modernnbuildings.nIn 1929 Mies was named the headnof the Bauhaus, which he oversaw fornthe last four years of its life. Under hisnleadership, the Bauhaus turned awaynfrom hurdy-gurdy experimentation tonteaching Mies’s ideas on architecturenand design. He also took a firm standnnnagainst student radicalism, at one pointnexpelling the entire student body. Inn1933, he closed the Bauhaus rathernthan submit to the control of thenNational Socialists.nIn 1938, Mies became the head ofnthe department of architecture at thenIllinois Institute of Technology. Beforenhe came to Chicago, much of his worknwas “paper architecture”; of buildingsnhe had only a handful, mostly privatenhomes. Chicago offered Mies thenchance to build large for the first time.nHis first major commission was tondesign the entire IIT campus; there,nhe built the first of the glass and steeln”boxes” with which his name is associated.nFrom this point to his death inn1969, Mies designed the buildings fornwhich he is best known: 860-880 LakenShore Drive, the Seagram Building,nthe Farnsworth House, the Toronto-nDominion Centre, and many others.nDespite the number and the variety ofnhis commissions, however, his worknbecame marked by sameness. AsnSchulze notes, Mies evolved two basicndesigns that he used over and over: then”prismatic tower and the pavilion ofnunitary space.” Mies’s inclination tonthe sachlich, the unadorned and functional,nmoved him to an impersonalnv/ork that, oddly, was quite expressivenLudwig Mies was born in Aachen.nHis father, Michael, was a stone carver.nMies himself described how once,nwhen his brother suggested a shortcutnin stone-carving, Michael said, “Donyou know the finial at the top of thenspire in Cologne? Well, you can’tncrawl up there and get a good look at it,nbut it is carved as if you could. It wasnmade for God.”nMies attended the local cathedralnschool, then the Gewebeschule, wherenhe learned the building trade. Hisnschooling ended at age 15, when henfound a job as a draftsman in a localnstucco factory. When he was 19, Miesnobtained a position as a draftsman in anBerlin architect’s ofEce.nIn those days, it was possible tonbecome an architect by working in annarchitect’s office instead of going tonschool. Mies aspired to become morenthan a draftsman; within a year ofnmoving to Berlin, he went to work fornBruno Paul, the leader of a group ofnradical young architects who insistednon simplicity and geometric form, ornSachlichkeit (“reality,” “impartiality”).n