Mies van der Rohe star of the Google doodle

Crown Hall is featured on the Google doodle as we look at how Mies van der Rohe changed architecture teaching

If, like us, you're enjoying today's Google image we thought you might like to know a little more about it. The image used is of course, the Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology, completed in 1956 by Mies van der Rohe (126 years old today - hence the Google doodle). Van der Rohe's steel and glass masterpiece represents the first large-scale realisation of his ideal clear-span/ universal space building. Mies ignored advice to include railings on the porch, wanting the building to appear to float.

As well as creating some of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century including the Seagram Building, the Berlin National Gallery and Farnsworth House, it's a lesser known fact that Van der Rohe also made a significant contribution to architectural education, first at the Bauhaus in the 1930s, and later in the USA as Director of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The idea of providing a single large room for the School of Architecture and City Plannning's 300 students was, in theory, the physical expression of his anti-ivory tower aspects of the architecture curriculum prevalent at the time.

"Van der Rohe looked upon teaching as a great stimulant, because he was forced to clarify his ideas in order to be able to teach them," the architect Peter Carter, who studied under van der Rohe at IIT, told Phaidon some years ago. "He knew from experience that there would not be adequate time to think about architecture when working on an actual building, the thinking had to be done before. In keeping with this view he was convinced that a student should not be expected to design a building before he or she had assimilated the basic tools of his or her work."

Above all else van der Rohe was determined that everything in his school should lead to reason - the curriculum had to depend upon and serve this philosophy. "A curriculum without a philosophy is not broad and wide, not even neutral, but nebulous. Everything should be guided by reason in order that one is kept on the right track," he said. 

Mies van der Rohe at Work

Mies van der Rohe at Work

A simplified version of Mies van deer Rohe's curriculum at IIT runs as follows. Year One: Learn the discipline of drawing well. Year Two: Learn basic construction in brick, wood and stone. Take note of their intrinsic properties and learn about form, proportion, rhythm, texture and colour. Year Three: Extend knowledge to concrete and steel. Learn about the simple functions of rooms (bathroom, bedroom and kitchen) and relate these to structures of different sizes. Year Four: Introduce the basic elements of town planning, densities, zones and land use. Year Five: Learn about the expression of structure and materials, groups of buildings and their interrelationship. 

One other thing: a few years ago we published an incredible book on Mies van der Rohe written by Peter Carter and called Mies van der Rohe At Work. Like the work of the iconic architect it's as good as it ever was. You can buy it here