In ‘Visions of Space’, narrator Robert Hughes tackles the work and lives of three remarkable 20th-century architects: Albert Speer, Mies van der Rohe, and Antonio Gaudi – whose work did so much to shape the modern world. Hughes looks at how each one used space in different ways to express our response, respectively, to the power of religion (Antonio Gaudi), the power of the State (Albert Speer), and the power of the corporation (Mies van der Rohe).
In this episode, we follow Mies’ footsteps we see how an architect who began his career making kitschy, Hansel and Gretel style houses with pointy roofs, little windows and squat floorplans transformed himself into the master of international modernism – the architect of light and space. Mies’ New York masterpiece the Seagrams Building provided the blueprint for the modern office building.
But despite his undeniable impact there is something in Mies’ work that Hughes finds shockingly neglectful of real human needs. This master builder could spend days working out how to turn a corner with a skilfully placed beam and totally ignore the legitimate wishes and desires of those who used his buildings. Nevertheless, Mies definition of real order and how this influences his work was: “The real order is that what St. Augustine said about the disposition of equal and unequal things – giving to each what each deserves, according to their nature.”
Segment 1 (9:50 min)