The plan of Tugendhat House actually comes out to create a boundless spatial freedom, obstacle-free space. The uniformed orthogonal grid of supports suggests that the plan ideally projects beyond the limit of the enclosure. The supports of the structure are all identical, rising from bottom to top with no articulation in elevation, presenting perfect extrusions of this cruciform pattern plan which confirms the rule from which they originated. They allude to the infinite space of which they are a limited sample.
Accordingly, their chrome plated surface makes them reflective to the surrounding and accentuates their responsiveness to the ever-changing chromatic values of the environment rather than their presence as physical supports. Light seems to be their prevailing constitutive matter and, similarly to their own mirrored images on glass and other reflective planes; they tend to be abstract forms, geometric entities infinitely replicable, similar to the points of a Cartesian plane.The example of Tugendhat House shows that the vertical structure plays a central role in defining the spatial quality of architecture. The architect insists “the ‘plan libre’ and a regular structure cannot be separated, without this skeleton the plan would not be free but chaotic.” If the supports followed an irregular pattern or they were different from each other they would turn the attention away from the space and move towards a collection of individual compartments. Like a blank canvas, the space between floor and ceiling is ready to be characterized in obedience to our aesthetic, relieved form the concerns of weight and obstacles.With the insertion of glass, the Tugendhat House turns from abstract to physical. The glass mediates between these two dimensions that coexist in the structure. Once it has become a physical object, not only is an idea concretised in to steady forms, but the same time, the physical site is also enriched by the abstract order provided by the project. The house does not stop at the glass but also extends over the surrounding landscape, the territory as a whole becomes the dwelling space. On the other hand, the ever-changing cast of nature comes through the big glass walls and become an integral part of the housing experience.In Mies’ building, glass replaces walls; it has the dimension of walls, a wall with specific quality which makes it unique: the permeability to light. It actively contributes to the architecture, capturing any transition of form and colour in nature and carrying it both inside and reflecting it back outside at different measures depending on the hour of the day, the luminosity of the sky and the angle of light rays. The outer world enters the house after having been filtered through the “walls” where only desirable features are let in.The architecture of the Tugendhat House metaphorically alludes to the domestication of nature by man. And while our everyday domestic activities are immersed in nature, our admiration of its beauty from our privileged point of observation behind the glass screen is also accompanied by a sense of domination. In the Tugendhat House, nature becomes part of the family, without any distinction form the other elements of the project.The experience of the Tugendhat House was succeeded by the project of the model house for the Berlin Building exhibition (1931). Here Mies implements a variety of septa that are located not only within glass enclosure but also outside it and at times even projecting out through it. The Berlin exhibit explores how walls can be used as space unifiers. As in the Tugendhat house, the free plan is made possible by the use of punctual supports, while the septa are not structural, along with the glass screens are exclusively used for articulating space. The freedom within these elements is located in plan. The mutual relationship they have with each other creates enclosed spaces, patios and covered terraces where are blended perfectly.The themes of Mies’ architecture analysed above show how the research of the architect was focused on the re-interpretation of elements in a post-classical manner. Credits are to be given to the possibility that is offered by modern production and the freedom it allows in construction, the role of traditional elements of architecture such as walls structure, openings and nature have been brought to their primitive potential through a process of abstraction. This renders possible the creation of a new form of plan originated from a continuous space, free of boundaries and alternate to the classical interpretation of architect as a counterpart to nature, marking a crucial contribution in setting the foundation of the Modern Movement.
Courland, Robert. Concrete Planet. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY. (2012) page 326.
Ellie Stathaki (13 June 2012), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Villa Tugendhat returns to formWallpaper.
Alice Rawsthorn: "Reopening a Mies Modernist Landmark", in The New York Times, 24 February 2012
Sarah Boxer (21 August 2004), Mies Villa, Jostled by History, Is in a Race Against TimeNew York Times.