Few names in Mid Century Modern architecture are more famous than Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Originally from Germany, Mies moved to the US to flee the Nazi regime, after which he designed a lot of buildings in America. These were mostly concentrated in Chicago, where he worked at the Chicago’s Armour Institute of Technology, which later became the Illinois Institute of Technology.
While you may be acquainted with his extensive work in Chicago, you might not be as familiar with Mies’ large-scale projects on the East Coast. Let’s take a tour of his apartments and office buildings in the Northeast region.
1. One Charles Center – Baltimore, MD
One Charles Center was Mies’ first building in Baltimore, completed in 1962, and listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 2000. The central business district in Baltimore had been ailing throughout the post-war period, and the goal of the skyscraper was to inject new life into the district. Standing 23 stories tall, One Charles Center is built out of reinforced concrete, anodized aluminum, and glass. Just last month, majority stakeholder Peter Angelos listed the building for sale.
2. Seagram Building – New York City, NY
You will find the Seagram Building in Manhattan between 52nd and 53rd Streets at 375 Park Avenue. It stands thirty-eight stories tall, and was completed in 1958. While Mies oversaw the design of the Seagram building, co-architect Philip Johnson, associate architect Ely Jacques Kahn, associate architect Robert Allan Jacobs, and client Phyllis Lambert all had input on the design.
This collaborative approach yielded spectacular results. In its time, the Seagram Building was well-received, immediately becoming a landmark in office design. Today it remains one of the finest examples of Mies’ work.
One of the most significant engineering feats in the Seagram Building is its glass curtain wall. Curtain walls do not serve the traditional role that walls do in supporting a structure’s weight. While they had been around since the 19th century, Mies took the concept to new heights with the Seagram Building. The result is the structure’s sleek aesthetic and impressive natural light.
3. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library – Washington D.C.
Next, we have the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (MLKML). Construction finished in 1972, three years after Mies’ death. Major materials include steel, brick and glass. The structure closed from 2017-2021 for major renovations following derelict maintenance. While the interior underwent major changes, the exterior still looks much as it did back in the 70s.
A library calls for many of the same design sensibilities as an office building—natural light, open, inviting, non-distracting spaces, and appealing views outside. So while this is Mies’ sole library, the skills he developed in office architecture translated well to its design.
4. Richard King Mellon Hall, Pittsburgh, PA
If you happen to be visiting Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, make sure you swing by the Richard King Mellon Hall of Science. You’ll notice some design similarities with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Both structures are four floors tall and feature similar colonnades and dark colors.
5. Highfield House – Baltimore, MD
Finally, we have Highfield House Condominium. This 1964 residential structure features 15 stories of concrete. Decorative brick panels below each tinted glass window add visual interest to the façade without excessive ornamentation.
When the National Park Service added the building to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, it was just 43 years old. Normally, structures had to surpass the half-century mark to go on the list. So, this is testament to Highfield House’s architectural importance.
If you enjoyed this tour of Mies’ East Coast large-scale projects, find out more about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the International Style. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Atomic Ranch articles and ideas!