Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) was internationally one of the most important and influential architects of the twentieth century. The professional career can be divided into two phases, each lasting 30 years, in Berlin and in Chicago. Aside from several iconic modernist buildings in Europe, he developed a bold form of architecture in the United States whose structural order made flexibly useable buildings possible.
Between 1927 and 1937, Mies van der Rohe planned six projects for Krefeld, the city of the silk weavers, three of which were realized. The time of his Krefeld years to his emigration to the United States in 1938 represents for first highpoint of Mies van der Rohe’s career.
During this 11-year collaboration, Mies van der Rohe profited from the good contacts to the “Krefeld friends” around the silk manufacturer and art collector Hermann Lange. Mies van der Rohe probably met Lange, who was interested in avant-garde art, in conjunction with the German Werkbund. Artists, architects, craftsmen, industrialists and intellectuals came together to form the Werkbund for the purpose of taking new paths in the development of objective and functional design.
Hermann Lange (1874–1942) and Josef Esters (1884–1966) were among the representatives of Krefeld’s textile industry that founded Vereinigten Seidenwebereien AG [United Silk Weaving Mills Ltd.], known as Verseidag in 1920. This association erected an industrial complex in Girmesgath that was largely realized with the participation of Mies van der Rohe between 1925 and 1938. In addition, Mies built the striking residences for the families of the manufacturers Lange and Esters as well as an unrealized golf club house embedded in the landscape.
The Krefeld designs and buildings clearly illustrate the tense relationship between avant-garde architectural ideas and constructive challenges: from the hybrid steel and masonry constructions of Haus Lange and Haus Esters, the functional faced steel-frame warehouse building for the Verseidag’s men’s lining material to the interplay of wall sections and chromed cross-shaped supports in the plans for the house of Hermann Lange’s son Ulrich or in the golf club. The projects illustrate the development and spectrum of Mies van der Rohe’s architectonic principles and construction solutions at a time of searching. This experience, and especially that of the late, unrealized large-scale project for Verseidag’s main headquarters, anticipated Mies’s future architectural approaches during his American career.
Nobert Hanenberg, Daniel Lohmann