ST[J]IL MIES by Caio Barboza

April. 02, 2012


The De Stjil movement explores concepts of unity which rely on boundary, hierarchy, and centrality.  This new unity sets an interplay of figure and ground, planes, and grids.  Although artistic ideas from the De Stjil era established rules for the use of vertical and horizontal lines, this radical attempt for the renewal of art was much influenced by the constant search for asymmetrical compositions.  Paintings from the De Stjil era communicate abstract expressions of nature.  Theo Van Doesburg’s painting “Rhythm of a Russian Dance” (pic.1) translates a free flowing movement of a figure into a series of horizontal and vertical lines and zones.  The translation provides a new reading of the visual world; the restrictive expression by the only use of horizontal and vertical medium tells a visually simplified view of the natural world.  Although the lines may vary in color and length, the lines of the paintings from the De Stjil era interprets an understanding of the world through horizontality, verticality, or the combination of those two.  Mondrian followed the principles of Neoplasticism whereas Theo Van Doesburg, an architect, founder, and publisher of the De Stjil ideas, attempted to broaden the movement’s research projects in architecture – he wanted to define the understanding of a space.

Mies’ works are not only influenced by the artistic movement, but also recreate an understanding of the ideas of horizontal and vertical planes.  The development of Mies’ theoretical problems and ideologies for the Brick Country Club House (pic.2-6) articulate his own version of the new spatial order in which interior and exterior were to be interwoven seamlessly.  Mies places the walls, giving variation in thickness, material, length, and direction.  Mies’ understanding of the De Stjil works recreates an architectural experience that translates lines into planes and different spatial readings.  The walls not only stand themselves, but also define spatial perception, boundary, and a center.  Parts of the Brick House explain a central spatial organization that extends to the exterior landscape.  Other walls of the house define a more interior experience for private functions of the house. The variation in planes, through the use of walls, creates enclosure or exposure, centers or boundaries, and private or public spaces.

Mies extends the idea of creating different spatial readings through variation in planes in the Tugendhat House (pic.7-8).  The second floor of the house reads as a continuation of the landscape.  The lining of the columns creates a subtle yet apparently linear extension of the hills of Brno in Czechoslovakia.  When one walks through the columns there is still a sense of dynamic engagement of the landscape.  As the thickness and length of the walls determine penetrating or flowing movement, the layering of architectural elements of the Tugendhat House, like columns, curving walls, and glass point direction to movement.  These uses of different architectural elements may have been suggestive of the perceptive qualities of the De Stjil paintings, achieved through the different use of red, blue, yellow, and white colors as well as variation in thickness of the painted lines.

Theo Van Doesburg’s painting “Rhythm of a Russian Dance”
pic.1 Theo Van Doesburg’s painting “Rhythm of a Russian Dance”

Brick Country House by MIES
pic.2 Brick Country Club House (Mies)

Brick Country House by MIES

Brick Country House by MIES

Brick Country House by MIES

Brick Country House by MIES

Tugendhat House by MIES
pic.7 Tugendhat House (Mies)

Tugendhat House by MIES

Architecture student: Caio Barboza
Cornell University
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning Class of 2013
Category: Thesis

submitted on 2012.03.28

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