While thinking about the modernist era that occurred in architecture, one of the first names that come to one’s mind is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. One of his initial ideas, during modernism, was to bring the phrase “less is more” into the picture. The term or phrase he picked up from his former mentor, Peter Behrens. Mies’ aim was to convey the idea of concision, minimalism, and the importance of details. Apart from this, it was how buildings should be pure and simple in expression that avoided any kind of complexity in massing or otherwise. These bold expressions were possible due to the revolutionary changes happening in the world, the change in various art forms and political situations. It also gave the architect a chance to execute and give in his best. Structures designed by Mies are considered to be monuments of the modern era.
However, executing his revolutionary ideas in his home country of Germany faced a threat soon after the attack on Bauhaus. Before closing down the school and moving to America in 1933, Mies received an appeal from Karl Lemke and Martha Lemke to design a house now known as the famous Lemke House. Also known as the Landhaus Lemke, Haus Lemke, Villa Lemke, or the Mies van der Rohe Haus, it is situated in the city of Berlin facing the lake of Obersee. Acting as a modern monument, it also appears as a striking structure if compared to the houses built in the 1920s of the Hohenschönhausen neighborhood.
The statements and ideas expressed by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, during his time as a teacher in Bauhaus, are clearly depicted in the house. A person can decipher principles and elements of pure geometry, elegance, and simplicity with one glance at the house. The single-storey house is observed to be in a rectilinear form that tends to dictate a tale of modesty.
A lot of Mies’ projects have a certain distinctive character to them. This character is certainly in regards to the modern style of architecture. Although, the key characteristics of the architect’s design are the timelessness or the evergreen quality it holds. The same is the case with Lemke House. Simplicity in massing and planning can be observed. The L-shaped plan portrays all the properties proposed by Mies – Free planning, no excess internal barriers that increase complications, and a clean form. The structure, which consisted of the load-bearing walls, was carried out. One can also assume that a lot of this was the result of having the bar set low by the couple, in terms of fees and cost.
Along with the massing and planning, material selection and coordination plays a huge role in contributing to the simplicity as well. The material palette consists of classic red bricks, glass, and white square-shaped frames that intend to frame the view of the garden and lake. The large windows have been placed facing the courtyard not only to acknowledge the view but also to give a sense of harmony and continuity of the indoor with the outdoor. The manifestation of his ideology has contributed to the act of amalgamation that does not segregate the two distinct spaces. The continuity is such that no difference in the level has been carried out. There is no plinth or any form of steps to define the outdoor space. The internal spaces are considered to extend into the courtyard or the garden with just the windows acting as a movable plane. Physical continuity and visual continuity both can be observed.
The limitations in the form of material and exclusions of the idea of maximalism can be observed while deciding the interior layout, flooring and furniture as well. Hence, sticking to one material for the furniture has been carried out in order to follow the language.
Some expressions of juxtaposition are observed when it comes to master architect Mies’ projects. Just like one of his major projects, the “Barcelona Pavilion” which was considered to be an icon in the history of architecture, the Lemke House also depicts the execution of contrasting ideas of solid and transparent planes together. Not only this but also the incorporation of several materials at once but still sticking to one material per element or space has been carried out.
After being a happy place for the couple, the house went through a lot of changes that occurred due to the political and socio-economical scenarios around 1945. At the beginning of the 20th century, the house was then repaired and brought to its initial condition that acts as an important expression of the style of Bauhaus. Currently, it is open for architecture students, professionals, and art enthusiasts to visit.