Do you like Mies? / Kenchikuka ni narou!
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
Although it is not unusual for Takotron to pithily describe its impressive accomplishments, it is rare that we disclose information about our personal plans, intentions, and undertakings. However, we feel it is necessary to release the following statement:
Our CEO and founder, thenovakids entity 00001, alias Mordecai, has been granted acceptance to the Illinois Institute of Technology's College of Architecture to pursue a Masters degree in the field of Architecture. There is a reasonable chance that he will attend this institution, and ultimately one day become an architect with grandiose plans for shaping our world's (and others') cities
IIT is built from the master plan of Mies van der Rohe, who emigrated from Nazi Germany where he headed the late Bauhaus. He subsequently was invited to chair the architecture department (when it was called the Armour Institute of Technology) and has since had an enormous and indelible impact on the school. The keystone building for the architecture dept. is his famous Crown Hall (1956), where the architecture studios take place. His famous 860-880 N Lake Shore Dr. apartments (comp. 1951) are another example of his most successful and influential work.
Unfortunately, his "international" high-rise style was so influential that today it is sometimes difficult to understand the true significance of Mies.
The Promontory Apartments (1949), his first completed high-rise, is around the corner from my apartment. Speaking for my generation, which has experienced the imitation before the original, it looks more like a housing project than the origin of revolutionary Modern architecture. (left: Promontory Apts. ; right: Cabrini Greens)
Rem Koolhaas is responsible for the new student center at IIT, which features a steel tube to muffle the rattle of the 'L,' as well as a number of orange honeycomb polymer walls (Panelite) extending to the bathrooms, allowing me to urinate in a surreal orange glow. It also features icon mosaics that depict the faces of Mies and several other founders of the school. "I do not respect Mies, I love Mies. I have studied Mies, excavated Mies, reassembled Mies. I have cleaned Mies. Because I do not revere Mies I'm at odds with his admirers" (Content
182). Koolhaas' McCormick Center is an embodiment of that sentiment:
Koolhaas, in a gossipy moment, also states, "Mies's model shop had a (frequently exploited) view of the photo studios of Playboy Magazine [in Chicago]--all during the Fifties and Sixties Mies's architecture and the first generation of playmates had been produced in voyeuristic proximity. It is exactly that kind of proximity we proposed for the Campus Center and the Commons, and which the Miesians wanted to undo" (ibid. 189). I kind of see what he means, but I'm not sure its significance is as profound as he implies. I often have this type of reaction to Koolhaas' writings. I enjoy them immensely. Is this post less entertaining than those in the past? Is TAKOTRON boring you? Are you unable to sit there for more than 2 minutes without clicking your mouse? We refuse to acknowledge any shortcomings on our part, nor will we grovel before you, buffoons for your amusement. We like entertainment and the frantic ADD pace of todays cyberworld. That is why we at Takotron provide you with our Cyan and Magenta world, luring you. But now you feel the catch. Yes. Go with it. You are becoming one of thenovakids. Death and rebirth, the origin and apocalypse
Moving on, it is our opinion that Charles Edouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier, offers a more lasting and revolutionary Modern architecture. Architect Thom Mayne (principal of Morphosis) expressed his disgust with much of the architecture being chosen by clients today, including a revival of an 18th century pseudo-Classical manor style, as we approach the 100-year anniversary of Corbusier's early work. He's absolutely right--and it's America where these bad ideas have taken root. It is evident that Mies' modernism caught on, but it's interesting to daydream about what our cities would look like if they followed the ideas of Corbusier instead. The latter was certainly more radical, or in a more anti-establishment way. Both men were strong-willed and firm in their opinions, but Mies was certainly better at courting clients (he suggests treating them like children unsure of what they want). Corbusier's utopia was a technocracy, a city lead by radical entrepreneurs occupying huge cross-shaped towers in the cities' centers (intersected by airplane runways). But he also thought extensively about communal space and working class housing in a way that still seems very progressive (and unfortunately far from reality). My hero.