Mies van der Rohe’s birthday (Toronto Life Ep. 208 bonus)

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I was totally delighted when I saw this Google Doodle today! In the top left corner of my Google search results–as I tend to exclusively use the combined search and address bar in Google Chrome–I spied that today was a Google Doodle Day and I had to know the occasion, as per usual. This beautiful and simple and geometric graphic greeted me in the center of the Google search page and as I moved my cursor to hover over the image, I had a feeling it was as familiar to me as the office building I work in every day. Indeed, the Doodle was in honour of Mies van der Rohe‘s 126th birthday!

I just had to share it with two of my co-workers, James and Carol. It sounds tremendously geeky of me when I download to them all I know about van der Rohe which I shared recently in my blog entry about the TV series, Suits. In fact, I don’t know very much except the following:

  • Starting with and Seagram Building in New York and using it as a prototype, Mies designed several more iconic North American office buildings including the Dirksen and Kluczynski Federal Buildings in Chicago, the IBM Plaza in Chicago and Westmount Square in Montreal. As his last project, I logically conclude that the Toronto-Dominion Centre where I work is the perfect culmination of his ideas. Before I started working here, it was wonderous to walk amongst the towers which are rigidly mathematically ordered , “each building offset to the adjacent by one bay of the governing grid, allowing views to ‘slide’ open or closed as an observer moves across the court.” More poetically, “the light as it moves across the building surfaces, playing the mullions like stringed instruments, and the orchestration of the various buildings are together paradigmatically symphonic.”
  • While the Doodle looked to me like the ground-level banking pavilion at King and Bay, it is more likely to be depicting the stunning US Post Office Loop Station in the Dirksen Building that is a “visual gateway through the complex”.
  • The “black monoliths”, as we call the striking design, are in the architectural style known as International style
  • Mies’ “personal” touch is palpable in the presence of the Barcelona chairs (which he co-designed) in the lobbies and the TD Centre part of the concourse-level underground-shopping “mall”, PATH, adheres to his strict design sense: “the store fronts must consist only of the glass panels and black aluminum that he specified. Even signage graphics were restricted to only white backlit letters within a black aluminum panel, and only in the specific font that Mies had designed for the T-D Centre”!

Mies’ architectural and design contribution extend far beyond black monolith towers but that’s my context and the one Google Doodle played up, too.

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