History of Twentieth Century Architecture: Wolf House by ... Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe (b. Aachen,...
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By the early 20’s, Mies Van der Rohe had already built some houses in Germany, but had not been able to implement his modernist ideas. In 1925, Mies received a commission to design a house for Erich and Elisabeth Wolf, owners of a hat factory, who had previously seen some of his early designs. They were willing to give to Mies more freedom, enabling him to materialize the modernist approach, which would be “in tune” with his epoch.
Mies was the architect-director of Bauhaus from 1930 to 1933 and head of architecture department of Illinois Institute of Technology from 1938 to 1958. His most famous designs: Barcelona Pavilion, Villa Tugendhat, Farnsworth House, Crown Hall, Seagram Building and New National Gallery. Awarded with: Order Pour le Mérite (German Kingdom of the Prussia) in 1959, Royal Gold Medal (British) in 1959, American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1960 and Presidential Medal of Freedom (American Government) 1963.
Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe (b. Aachen, Germany 1886; d. Chicago, USA 1969)
History of Twentieth Century Architecture: Wolf House by Mies Van der Rohe
It has been suggested that this design for wall distribution was inspired by Mies’s idealised Brick Country House Plan. What is known for sure is that the aimed openness and flow between spaces are present in all his projects. Study room, Music room, Living room and Dining room were commonly used in large houses in Germany at that period properly separated. In the Wolf House, however, the rooms were separated by subtle indications, once some walls were shared by two rooms, in a flow guiding to the paved terrace, accessed through a large glass door and cantilevered roof. The bedrooms were to be found at the first floor, again, with a large door allowing way to the terrace roof (over the Living room) and the master bedroom placed on top of the entrance hall, with access to the South-eastern balcony that acts as a porch.
Unfortunately, the Wolf House was destroyed during the Second World War. All evidences indicate that the destruction was caused by a large fire. Mr Wolf’s art collection was not found. Most of the remaining materials were used to rebuild other buildings during the post-war and only a few photographs survived to give us some idea of the house which one day stood where today the Waszkiewicz Park is.
The house was to be built in a narrow sloped site adjacent to Neisse River in Guben, Poland. Mies proposed to build the three (or possibly four) storeys high house at the topmost part of the hill overlooking the city, using the entire width of the plot. The slope was manmade in stepped shape, resembling terrace farming. Intentionally or not, this shape can be easily recognised throughout the entire building, in small details of the pinwheel bond brick-pattern of paved terrace floor and in the Flemish bond of external walls; it is also shown in the profile of the Wolf House, with the combination of the retaining wall, the terrace, the ground floor and first floor. Even in the Plan, the distribution of some walls seems to follow the zigzag shape.
Certainly, this project was a breakthrough opportunity to Mies career. His architectural philosophy subsequently flourished in other commissions such Liebknecht- Luxemburg Monument, Lange and Esters Houses, Barcelona Pavilion and many other remarkable projects.
1-Entrance and Stair Hall; 2-Study room/ Library; 3-Music room; 4-Living room; 5-Dining room; 6-Kitchen; 7-Parlour (reception room).
Above, Wolf House during its construction in 1926. (source: Urbipedia)
On the left: The sharpness of the balcony and East facade were later softened by the wisteria ordered by Mrs Wolf. She also did not take all the interior suggestions from Mies. On the right: Models of the Wolf House exposed at Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA.
Above, Erich and Elisabeth Wolf daughters, and Wolf house entrance at the background.
The paved terrace at the ground floor (view from the roof terrace, just above the living room).
Blakwood, M. (Director). (1985). Mies [Motion Picture]. / Casa Erich Wolf. (n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2014, from Urbipedia: http://www.urbipedia.org/index.php?title=Casa_Erich_Wolf / Cohen, J.-L. (1996). Mies Van der Rohe. London: E & FN Spon. / Davies, C. (2006). Wolf House. In C. Davies, Key Houses of the Twentieth Century- Plans, Sections and Elevations (pp. 58-59). London: Laurence King Publisher. / Franz Schulze, i. a. (1989). Mies Van der Rohe, A Critical Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. / Triangle modernist houses. Mies Van der Rohe. Retrieved January 02, 2014, from North Carolina Modernist houses: http://www. trianglemodernisthouses.com/vanderrohe.htm / IBA. (n.d.). Wolf House Project. Retrieved January 02, 2014, from http://www.iba-see.de/wolf-house-project/my_wolf_house_projectfirstpage.htm / Michael, K. (2004, April 15). Fließender Raum. Retrieved January 3, 2014, from Zeit Online: http://www.zeit.de/2004/17/A-Mies-Villa/seite-1