Architecture: Mies Is More

Two exhibitions put flesh on the man who perfected bare-bones architecture

Even people who hate modern architecture--all those featureless skyscrapers bunched along heartless avenues!--can have a soft spot for Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the most steadfast Modernist of them all. In his later years, he proposed variations of the same building for every purpose. For office towers and museums, a black steel-and-glass carton. For symphony halls and convention centers? Ditto. For houses? O.K., for houses, something more domestic--a steel-and-glass carton in white. All the same, the best of what he did is still utterly beautiful. Around the lobby of the Seagram Building in New York City, threads of steel outline wide...

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