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Drawing, Elevation and Plan for the Ulrich Lange House, Krefeld, Germany

This is a Drawing. It was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and made for (as the client) Ulrich Lange. It is dated ca. 1935 and we acquired it in 2017. Its medium is graphite, pen and black ink on tan paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

A drawing by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe has long been at the top of the architectural drawing wishlist for Cooper Hewitt’s Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design Department. At present, Mies is represented in the museum’s collection with two chairs, Model MR534 and Barcelona. This drawing would offer the museum an opportunity to represent Mies architectural practice during the height of his practice in Germany prior to his move to the United States.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe received the commission to build the Ulrich Lange House in Krefeld, Germany in 1935. While Mies is widely known for his public commissions, private residences constituted the majority of his work until well into the 1950s. His designs for country houses and villas demonstrate his interest in spatial organization and experiments in developing open plans that purposefully related the modern interior to the exterior landscape, an idea that has transformed and defined modern and contemporary architecture. Though the Ulrich Lange House was never realized, this plan and elevation drawing for the project captures the energy of Mies’s hand and demonstrates his innovative approach to interior and exterior space through an unusual application of his ideas for court-houses. Mies developed court-house projects for housing commissions throughout the 1930s; these designs relied on enclosed and semi-enclosed courts and yards within the house to shape the building’s architecture, creating a seamless design between interior and exterior space. Mies was an avid draftsman, and this drawing is also a representative example of Mies’s design process as well as this important body of his work.
The Ulrich Lange House was one of several projects Mies designed in Krefeld. Working in the Rhineland city signified a new direction in Mies’s work—his architectural designs for Krefeld projects embrace traditional elements as well as a new spatial openness. Ulrich Lange’s family were avid collectors of modern art, and Ulrich commissioned Mies to design a house after experiencing his work firsthand. In 1930, his father Hermann Lange had selected Mies to design a pair of Krefeld houses on neighboring lots. Though they were separate residences, the Hermann Lange House and Josef Esters House were conceived as an ensemble and visually balanced each other—the open-plan interiors differed, but both demonstrated new and innovative approaches to interior and exterior space.
Mies proposed two different plans for the Ulrich Lange House, and this drawing represents his first architectural scheme. The single-story brick house had a freestanding garage (visible at the lower left of the plan view above) connected to the main house via a service court (to the upper right of the garage). The house is composed of two wings that separate the kitchen, living, and dining areas (located to the right of the garage) from the bedrooms, sitting room, and gallery (at the upper left and right of the plan). While this separation might seem like a rigid division of domestic space, this drawing demonstrates that the plan was actually very open and airy—a glass-enclosed foyer and court connected the wings of the house and integrated the beautifully built environment with the natural landscape. The focal point of the house’s exterior, best seen in the lower right of the elevation view at the bottom of the drawing, is the open glass court filled with both natural elements and a large modern sculpture. To the left of the court is an enclosed brick garden that continues the materials and line of the design of the house and provides another interaction between the indoors and outdoors. The rooms within the house were also flexible and open—the sleeping areas of the master bedroom, for example, could be separated by the use of curtains to create partial rooms as needed. Within interior rooms, large windows invited the outdoors in, breaking up the façade (as seen in the elevation drawing below) while further minimizing the borders between inside and outside spaces.
Mies’s design scheme for the second architectural plan of the Ulrich Lange House transformed the asymmetry of the example in this drawing to a square rectangle more similar to conventions he established in Hubbe House and other contemporaneous court-house projects. Although Mies worked on a tight deadline to complete both sets of the Ulrich Lange House plans within a year for the client, the Krefeld building authority raised problems for the house’s development and execution. Likely objecting to the house’s modern façade and flat roofline, the building authority cited an “unsightliness law” commonly used by Nazis to restrict modern architecture to obstruct the project. The Lange family exerted their strong influence in the community to argue for the execution of the house, but the authority only consented to the house’s construction if a large earthen wall were built around the property to block the architecture from view. Frustrated by these restrictions, Mies abandoned the project in 1936. Though the project was unbuilt, this drawing reflects the importance of Mies’s spatial thinking during this period of his career and establishes important precedents that he would use in later projects.

It is credited Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund.

Its dimensions are

21.6 × 29.2 cm (8 1/2 × 11 1/2 in.)

Cite this object as

Drawing, Elevation and Plan for the Ulrich Lange House, Krefeld, Germany; Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (American, b. Germany, 1886–1969); graphite, pen and black ink on tan paper; 21.6 × 29.2 cm (8 1/2 × 11 1/2 in.); Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund; 2017-13-1

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