A Civic Proposal

The year 1986 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig Mïes van der Rohe. Mr. Mïes (the plumage "van der Rohe" was invented by him well into his career) is considered by many to be the most influential architect of this century. Schooled in Germany before the First World War, he worked his way up in the 1920's through architectural circles to become head of the Bauhaus. With the accession of Hitler, he abandoned Germany (and his family, it seems, but that's another story) and moved to Chicago, where he was named head of the architecture department at Armour Institute, now the Illinois Institute of Technology. From his base at IIT, Mr. Mïes and his followers set out to extend the influence of the Weimar Weltanschauung throughout the United States. No carping critic can deny that he was spectacularly successful; thanks to Mr. Mïes and his followers, the ill-proportioned, overly decorated buildings of Louis Sullivan, Daniel H. Burnham, and John W. Root, to name a few, were replaced with clean, aesthetic structures of steel and glass.

Consider, for example, the classic Lake Point Tower. It was built in Chicago in the 1960's, from a design by George Schipporeit, a devoted follower of Mïes who inherited his post as head of the department of architecture at IIT. It is built on a small peninsula that projects into Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago River. Dozens of...

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