Mies van der Rohe's Birthday Stirs Up Devotees, Interrupts Busy Students

By Sarah Dahnke in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 28, 2007 9:26PM

2007_3_28_miescake.jpgOne of the most notable features of S.R. Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology is that its massive open space on the first floor can be manipulated to accommodate numerous activities -- sometimes all at once. This was all apparent at last night's event, "Mixing the Perfect Mies: Celebrating Mies van der Rohe's 121st Birthday," hosted by the Mies van der Rohe Society at IIT. When Chicagoist arrived, we walked right into a black and white ball, complete with jazz music and martinis and tiny quiches, but as we became more aware of our surroundings, we noticed that numerous due date-driven students were hard at work behind a series of portable, collapsible walls on either side of the centrally located affair. We immediately flashed back to our college days, where we were pros at procrastinating, always working very casually until the last minute when a project was due. We'd then pound a couple of Red Bulls and frantically do two weeks worth of work in one sitting. This image made us feel sorry for the students being taunted by the appetizer buffet and open bar that suddenly appeared in the middle of their work space.

2007_3_28_mies.jpgThe event was arranged, not just as a celebration of van der Rohe's modernist, minimalist architecture techniques, but to also allow Mies fanatics to learn about the forthcoming book Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography, by Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst. The two authors were present to speak not only about the book, but to also tell a little about van der Rohe's early life, which included working as an architectural apprentice in Germany in the early 1900s before he was basically forced to move to America after the Nazi regime rejected his designs. Schulze and Windhorst said they aimed to provide a little perspective into the renowned architect's life to those who only knew him through his architecture. And Chicagoist may have received it if not for the faulty sound system, which continually cut out throughout the talk, and the fact that the two biographers felt it necessary to read from their notes verbatim in an incredibly monotone manner. The woman who introduced Schulze and Windhorst also let the crowd know that the Mies Society had nothing but love for Frank Lloyd Wright, just in case anyone was imagining a Jets vs. Sharks type showdown between devotees of the two prominent Chicago architects.

If we could provide the Mies Society with one tip, it would be to tell their lecturers to keep the Mies mantra alive when composing a talk. "Less is More." Don't read us your new book; tell us why we will want to read it. But your mini cupcakes? To die for.