Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe By Any Other Name

There is so much that can be written about this man and today, being the day of his birth, is the perfect day to give him center stage. That's exactly what Google did by adapting the Google Doodle as a line drawing of a building that portrayed his architectural style to commemorate his 126th birthday. Born in 1886 in Germany, he became a defining force in the world of architecture with his use of glass and steel and his philosophy that "less is more". He was active until the time of his death in 1969, involved in the creation of an art museum in Berlin.

There are reams of material written about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's life work, and for good reason. But out of all the things he is known for, I'm really interested in his name. He went by Mies, not Ludwig. And that moniker choice would seem to fit with his "less is more" point of view. But it's more complicated than that. Mies was his surname. He was born Ludwig Mies. As he became more recognized by discerning clientele, he wanted to remake his identity by adding his mother’s maiden name, Rohe, to his name. He also added van der, which means of the, as in of the family Rohe.

I am a big fan of Mies as an architect, and I’m also a fan of his name change. I like that he saw the benefit of re-positioning himself in response to the expectations of his prospective clients, even if that move was not in keeping with his “less is more” attitude. He is also well known for the saying “God is in the details”, and a name is one of the details that helps give others an idea of who we are. Luckily, it’s one of the details about ourselves that is relatively easy to change.

Very few humans will have a Google Doodle designed in their honor, but with the right name we can design a life that incorporates our art, our work and our dreams. Thank you, Mies, for the inspiration you still bring to our lives.

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