Overview

Overview

Upon visiting Mies’s landmark 1947 exhibition at MoMA, the designer Charles Eames wrote “The significant thing seems to be the way in which [Mies] has taken documents of his architecture and furniture and used them as elements in creating a space that says, ‘This is what it is all about.’” 

The exhibition Messy Mies and the Massive Middle appropriates this way of seeing and elaborates and riffs upon it. Messy Mies explores the relationship between furniture and architecture, viewer and model, effect and detail, document and design, and size and scale. 

The exhibit features three models: the Barcelona Pavilion, a 1940 design of the IIT Campus and one that Charles Eames never saw at MoMA: the Brussels Pavilion. The Brussels Pavilion is the equivalent of flyover country in Miesian architectural histories. It is also an immensely powerful work that is revealed in its fullness for the first time in Messy Mies.

Retractable, analog guides create framed views in each of the architectural models. These frames inform with commentary, illustrations and comparisons without resorting to digital means. This low-fi invitation asks much of the viewer and rewards equally or better in terms of the viewer’s effort. This experience is akin to radio rather than color TV.

Messiness conveys two meanings. The first is literal messiness. For instance, Mies’s Brussels drawings are dimensioned incorrectly. The second is ambiguity–in the confusion of the structural system of the Barcelona Pavilion–that imbues Mies’s best work with magic and élan. 

Massive expresses the Luxor-like scale of Brussels, and the Middle conveys the hybrid nature of its form, massing and detailing. Brussels also stands chronologically midway–the Middle reference–between Barcelona and the later IIT Campus, the two other models presented.

We have taken documents of Mies’s architecture and arranged and riffed on them to create Messy Mies and the Massive Middle. This is what it is about.

Stanley Tigerman at the Opening

Stanley Tigerman at the Opening

Opening night featured some special guests.

A Riff on Furniture and Architecture

A Riff on Furniture and Architecture

Here's a model of a 1940 version of the IIT Campus. It is also a riff on a cantilevered Mies table design

Brussels Pavilion of 1934

Brussels Pavilion of 1934

This design disappeared from 1934 until 1966. It was NOT available the MoMA show that Eames photographed in 1947. It is very powerful and deserves a place in the Miesian canon along with IIT and the Barcelona Pavilion.

Ways of Seeing

Ways of Seeing

Here's one of the retractable, analog guides in action.

Barca Chairs under construction

Barca Chairs under construction

High rise towers or chairs? Exploring the relationship between Architecture and Furniture is a complex, nuanced and, ultimately, a very productive endeavor.

Control layers like insulation are the part that Mies left out of his IIT  and Brussels masonry wall construction. They are "pure, unadulterated" heroic materials. more to follow...