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Mies in Berlin, Mies in America

In appraising its acknowledged masters, architectural history is usually content with a single version: Wright the troubled genius, Le Corbusier the painter in planner’s clothing, Gropius the ideologue who lacked an artist’s chops. Among the twentieth century’s Big Four, only Ludwig Mies van der Rohe persists in multiple. As the architectural historian Joan Ockman observes, “We have proliferated a dizzying array of Mieses—a European Mies, an American Mies; a classicizing Mies, an expressionist Mies; an Adorno-critical Mies, a pragmatic-lyrical Mies—but it often seems that our quarry only becomes increasingly elusive or opaque.” It is fitting, then, that the architect is celebrated this summer in dueling New York blockbusters, the museological equivalent of a home-and-away doubleheader. The curators at moma and the Whitney have broken Mies’s career at a natural point—his arrival here from

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