Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s “A Letter on Form in Architecture” (1924)

Translated from the German by Philip

Johnson.  From Mies van der Rohe.

(Museum of Modern Art.  New York, NY: 1947).

• • •

Dear Dr. Riezler:

My attack is not against form, but against form as an end in itself.

I make this attack because of what I have learned.

Form as an end inevitably results in mere formalism.

This effort is directed only to the exterior.  But only what has life on the inside has a living exterior.

Only what has intensity of life can have intensity of form.

Every “how” is based on a “what.”

The un-formed is no worse than the over-formed.

The former is nothing; the latter is mere appearance.

Real form presupposes real life.


But no “has been” or “would be.”

This is our criterion:

We should judge not so much by the results as by the creative process.

For it is just this that reveals whether the form is derived from life or invented for its own sake.

That is why the creative process is so essential.

Life is what is decisive for us.

In all its plenitude and in its spiritual and material relations.

Is it not one of the most important tasks of the Werkbund to clarify, analyze and order our spiritual and material situation and thus to take the lead?

Must not all else be left to the forces of creation?

[From Die Form, 1924]


~ by Ross Wolfe on October 25, 2010.

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