July 10, 2022


A glass building designed in 1952 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe has completed at Indiana University in Bloomington, more than 50 years after the German-American architect’s death.

Now known as the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, the design was adapted for contemporary use from the rediscovered plans by New York architecture studio Thomas Phifer and Partners.

It was originally commissioned by the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity at the same time Mies van der Rohe was working on the Farnsworth House.

The 60-foot-wide (18-metre) and 140-foot-long (43-metre) building is two storeys with a profile of white steel, characteristic of the 20th-century architect.

The top level is wrapped completely in glass and projects out over the concrete walls of the recessed ground-floor structure. The lower level is mostly open, with a central atrium that extends up through the second storey.

Partitioned interiors have both stark white and wooden walls, with floors of grey limestone and white epoxy terrazzo. Select furnishings by Mies van der Rohe and Florence Knoll were included.

Architecture-oriented YouTuber Stewart Hicks recently uploaded a tour the Eskenazi building:

Hicks seems determined to make a lost Mies van der Rohe building that had been designed by Mies, that’s instantly recognizable as an offshoot of Mies’s Farnsworth House, Crown Hall, and numerous other examples of Mies’s steel and glass American-era architecture as some sort of building without an architect.

But what would the man himself think of that notion? In his 1985 biography of Mies, Chicago area architectural historian Franz Schulze compared the mindsets of Walter Gropius and Mies, the first and last directors of Germany’s Bauhaus design school, before each man fled the Nazis to America in the 1930s:

The rivalry between Mies and Gropius relaxed as both men grew into old age, though the basic difference in their philosophies of teaching and designing were never resolved. Gropius was a devoted advocate of teamwork, both at the Bauhaus and in his American practice, while Mies remained a steadfast authoritarian. One day while visiting with Mies in the home of Chicago realtor Robert H. McCormick, Gropius was holding forth on the advantages of collaboration in the creation of a building. “But Gropius,” Mies inquired, “If you decide to have a baby, do you call in the neighbors?”

I’ll take that as a definitive answer.

UPDATE: Roger Kimball: Is modernism the enemy? The case of Mies van der Rohe.

(Updated and bumped.)

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