MIES.: THE VILLA OF THE TUGENDHATS CREATED BY LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE IN BRNO. Brno: Institute for the Protection of Monuments in Brno / the Brno City Museum, 1995.

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Dusan Riedl, Libor Teplý [Photographer]

Dusan Riedl, Libor Teplý [Photographer]: THE VILLA OF THE TUGENDHATS CREATED BY LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE IN BRNO. Brno: Institute for the Protection of Monuments in Brno in conjunction with the Brno City Museum, 1995. First edition [2,000 copies]. Oblong slim quarto. Text in English. Thick glossy photo illustrated wrappers. Publishers creenprinted chipboard slipcase decorated with flag sticker [as issued]. Stainless steel spine. 56 pp. 8 printed vellum leaves. Fully illustrated in color and duotone. Gift inscription to half title page,  but a fine copy in a fine example of the Publishers slipcase.

11.75 x 10.25 softcover book with 66 pages illustrating the history of the Modern Classic villa designed by  Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.  Includes 8 color printed leaves showing the villa floorplans floor by floor, a cross section, schematics for the Barcelona, Tugendhat, Easy, Brno and M. R. Wicker Chairs, the M. R. Low and Circular Dining Tables, and a Glass Buffet. Interesting book design that successfully pays homage to the the lavish construction materials specified by Mies in 1928.

"Form, by itself, does not exist. — Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

“The Villa Tugendhat was commissioned by the wealthy newlyweds Grete & Fritz Tugendhat, a Jewish couple with family money from textile manufacturing companies in Brno. The couple met Mies van der Rohe in Berlin in 1927, and was already impressed by his design for the Zehlendorf house of Edward Fuchs.  As fans of spacious homes with simple forms, Mies’ free plan method was perfect for the Tugendhats’ taste; however, he was not their only interest in an architect for their own home. They originally confronted Brno’s foremost modern architect at the time, Arnost Wiesner, but after visiting various projects by each architect, the Tugendhats ultimately went with Mies.

“Mies visited the site in September of 1928, and had already produced plans by December of that same year. He shared his design with the Tugendhat family that new year’s eve, and with a few minor changes new plans were drafted and set into motion. Mies deployed his new functionalist concept of iron framework, doing away with load-bearing interior walls and allowing for more open and light spaces. The villa was composed of three levels (including the basement), with different floor plans and forms, each relating differently to the sloping site.

“The Southeast and garden facades were completely glazing from floor to ceiling. The villa Tugendhat was a rather large house, complete with two children’s bedrooms and nanny’s quarters that shared a bathroom at the front of the house, while the master bed and bath were at the rear and connected to the terrace. A housekeeper’s flat and staff quarters were also included in the design.

“The villa was exceptionally expensive for its time considering the lavish materials, abnormal construction methods, and extraordinary new technologies of heating and cooling. The house was very advanced for a private residence, and while the overall cost was never known, estimates fall somewhere near five million Czech crowns. Brno was already a hub of modern Architecture for Czechoslovakia in the 1920s, and the Villa Tugendhat was only met with moderate praise at best among the avant garde in its time. Many of the left wing elite in the art world viewed the new home as snobbish and overdone because its lush interior design and furnishings.

“Mies designed all the furniture in the house and chose precisely the placement of each piece and fixture. Although there was no art on the walls or decoration in or on the house, it never came across as bare or plain because of the rich materiality of onyx and rare tropical woods used throughout the home. The villa was built by building contractors in Brno, but the iron framework was constructed by contractors from Berlin.

“Steel frame construction was unusual for homes at that time, but brought with it many advantages that Mies was very occupied with and had already used in his famed Barcelona Pavilion – thinner walls, a free plan that could differ from floor to floor, large walls of glazing to open up rooms and connect them to the garden, etc. Over all the minimal and stable design became a hallmark in Mies’ residential accomplishments.

“The Tugendhat family left Czechoslovakia for Venezuela in 1938 shortly before The Munich Agreement and never returned. The Gestapo set up flats and offices in the abandoned house during the World War II, when most of the windows were blown out during air raids and the original furniture was eventually all stolen. The villa was used in 1992 for the formal signing that separated the country into the present day Czech Republic and Slovakia, and since 1994 has been open to the public as a museum. Heirs of Fritz and Grete Tugendhat filed for the reinstitution of the villa into their ownership in 2007 on the basis of laws in place regarding works of art confiscated during the Holocaust.”  — Jules Gianakos

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe [1886 – 1969]  began his career in architecture in Berlin, working as an architect first in the studio of Bruno Paul and then, like Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, for Peter Behrens. In 1927, a housing project called Weissenhof Siedlung in Stuttgart, Germany, would bring these names together again. Widely believed to be one of the most notable projects in the history of modern architecture, it includes buildings by Gropius, Corbu, Behrens, Mies and others.

“Not yesterday, not tomorrow, only today can be given form.”

In 1928, Mies and his companion and colleague, the designer and Bauhaus alumna Lilly Reich, were asked to design the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona. The purpose of the Pavilion was to provide a location that could be visited by the king and queen of Spain during the opening of the Exposition. With that in mind, Mies designed a modern throne – known today as the Barcelona® Chair – for their majesties. In the following year, Mies designed another notable chair, the Brno, with a gravity-defying cantilevered base.

“Instead of trying to solve the new problems with old forms, we should develop the now forms from the very nature of the new problems.”

In 1930, Mies succeeded Walter Gropius as the director of the Bauhaus, where he stayed until the school closed in 1933. In 1937, Mies emigrated from Europe to the United States, and a year later became the director of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The rest of his career was devoted to promoting the modernist style of architecture in the U.S., resulting in rigorously modern buildings such as the Farnsworth House and the Seagram Building, designed with Philip Johnson.

"Reinforced concrete structures are skeletons by nature. No gingerbread. No fortress. Columns and girders eliminate vearing walls. This is skin and bone construction”.

The modern city, with its towers of glass and steel, can be at least in part attributed to the influence of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Equally significant, if smaller in scale, is Mies’ daring design of furniture, pieces that exhibit an unerring sense of proportion, as well as minimalist forms and exquisitely refined details. In fact, his chairs have been called architecture in miniature – exercises in structure and materials that achieve an extraordinary visual harmony as autonomous pieces and in relation to the interiors for which they were designed.

"Create form out of the nature of our tasks with the methods of our time."