121 images of Mies

Mies building

Flickr mosaic

At auction house Jeschke, Hauff & Auvermann in Berlin, on November 13th 2007 is an auction of 123 photographs from the prewar ouevre of Mies van der Rohe. Now my understanding is that Mies was notoriously restrictrive about images of his work being distributed and published, so these are a real find.

But their provenance is debatable, and their origins unknown. Speculation is they were once owned by Mies' long-term collaborator Lilly Reich, or Eduard Ludwig, a Bauhaus graduate who worked for Mies and Reich. As this article in Architect magazine states:

"During the Allied bombing raids on Berlin," explains Claire Zimmerman, an art history professor at the University of Michigan and author of a 2006 Taschen monograph on Mies, "Reich and Ludwig stored the office archive for protection in a barn at the Ludwig family's farm outside Berlin." The downtown studio, where Reich left her own archive, "took a direct hit," Zimmerman adds.

Shortly after Ludwig's death in 1960, according to Mies' grandson, Dirk Lohan, a Chicago-based architect, "the East German authorities confiscated the crates from the barn, claiming that everything to do with the Bauhaus was state property, since the Bauhaus had been a state organization." Mies eventually persuaded the government to ship his material to Chicago. (He donated his archive to New York's Museum of Modern Art. "It's the only architect's archive MoMA has ever agreed to accept," says former MoMA architecture curator Terence Riley.) "But we have no idea what had been removed from the piles in Germany over the years," Lohan says. The photos to be auctioned on Nov. 13, he adds, "could have been kept in Lilly Reich's or Ludwig's private possession, or [they] could have come from the crates. I have no idea. I find it very strange and mysterious that the auction house won't specify where they came from."

Whilst the origins of the photographs might be dubious, they present a fantastic history of Mies' development as an architect, including shots of the Wiesenhof Siedlung immediately after construction, and the Barcelona Pavilion, including interior mock-ups.

I loved the yellowed hue of these photos, and the beautiful, economical sketches.

As these images may not be online too much longer, and the Jeschke, Hauff & Auvermann site is not the easiest to navigate, I've uploaded these images as a Flickr set here.