Mar, 29, 2012,
3:02 PM

This is what Mies’ 126th birthday party looked like. We had live haircuts, live Vidal Sassoon models, live architects, students, designers, Mies Society members… and it rocked! (Spot Helmut Jahn! Spot Mies’ grandson, architect Dirk Lohan!)

› Read more
Mar, 27, 2012,
7:05 AM

Google Doodle Today

If you see Google’s homepage today, you’ll also see a rendering of S. R. Crown Hall, Mies’ legendary architectural achievement located on Illinois Institute of Technology’s Main Campus. It’s in honor of the architect’s 126th birthday.

This rendering was created by Willie Real, a San Francisco-based artist who has long loved architecture (and Mies, of course). He took the time to answer our questions about how he created today’s Google Doodle.

1.) First off—how did you get this particular assignment?

Our small doodle team sits down and goes over requests that come either from within our own doodle team, from other googlers, and of course our users around the world and we then divvy up who’s doing what. I volunteered for this doodle because it was going to be my first architect doodle and Mies Van Der Rohe is not a bad first at all. I was very excited!

2.) So you used to want to be an architect but the math part of the training made you think twice. Tell us a little about your interest in architecture.

Oh man, the math involved was indeed a fear… It still is! In sixth grade I was able to interview a classmate’s father who was a real architect! I was blown away by the idea that I could possibly build my own home the way I imagined it. Then he told me about the math involved, the geometry (which I wasn’t too bad at), the rules and regulations and the rest of the math it would take to become an architect and that’s when I started thinking ‘maybe I should stick to the visual side of things’. It’s funny because my first job after college was designing buildings for ‘Horton Hears a Who’, the Dr. Seuss movie. It was a wonderful experience and the perfect middle ground that required all of the imagination and none of the math.

3.) Your online portfolio has some very beautiful line drawings in a unique style. How has your style developed over time?

Thank you. I absolutely love brush pens. In school I was fortunate to have great instructors who inspired me with their work and/or gave great lessons in class. A figure drawing instructor once told me to ‘feel’ the contour of the forms. He then told me it was possible to convey weight with line variation. That really stuck with me. Quick studies, figure drawing, life drawing in my sketchbook and looking at other artists always helps define where I want to go. I always turn on my ‘learning’ button because
there’s always room for growth and experimentation.

4.) What was the biggest challenge in making a Mies Google doodle? (We imagine that it would have something to do with the fact that his designs are very right-angled while “Google” is very round!)

The right angles and the straight edges were intimidating at first but after a few sketches and some very careful hand-eye coordination, I think it worked well. We get excited when we’re able to change the logo around and this was a cool opportunity to incorporate the letters into the frame work of Crown Hall. What I think really helps the doodle are the little figures in front of the building. They give an overall sense of scale and hopefully justify Crown Hall’s presence.

5.) What was the most important thing to convey about Mies in the doodle, and how was it achieved?

Celebrating Mies’ legacy was definitely a challenge. Mies did so many great buildings that are worthy of a doodle but it was pretty evident from the get go that highlighting what many consider his masterpiece was the way to go.

6.) What’s your favorite Mies creation?

The Farnsworth house is amazing but I have to go with Crown Hall. After researching it more extensively and realizing the ceiling is suspended by the cross beams really makes me curious to see it in person! I hear the space inside has to be experienced. I definitely plan to visit some day.

I had a wonderful time working on the Mies doodle with you guys. I hope our users all around the world are delighted—whether they’re new to his work or fans already. Mies was definitely an innovator in his arena and we were very honored to celebrate him.

› Read more
Mar, 26, 2012,
11:11 PM

Mies’ mentees

In honor of Mies’ 126th birthday week, we’re featuring some of his most culturally influential mentees. We’ll start with a pair of former Illinois Institute of Technology students who eventually became business partners: Phyllis Lambert and Gene Summers.

Summers and Lambert are responsible for revitalizing interest in downtown Los Angeles. They purchased and renovated the Beaux Arts-style Biltmore Hotel in the midcentury, saving it from certain ruin. Not only did they restore it, they added a modern flavor with a four-star restaurant that featured chairs designed by Mies.

Summers died this year, leaving a legacy of transformation for several U.S. cities, including Chicago. His design of the second-generation McCormick Place (the first burned down in the 1960’s) was a feat of daring construction with it’s 300,000 square-foot space shelters by a roof that had eight columns for support. It made Chicago a convention destination. He later became Dean of IIt’s College of Architecture and eventually pursued his passion for creating sculpture.

Phyllis Lambert, besides famously convincing her father to hire Mies to design the Seagrams building, has consulted for countless instiutions, including the International Confederation of Architectural Museums. She has also built the Canadian Centre for Architecture into an internationally significant cultural institution.

› Read more