"To some, Mies van der Rohe was a god among architects, to others a Teutonic control freak. This imposing life gives the whole picture"
Mies was easy to caricature, and was by his opponents, especially when, from the 1960s onwards, he became identified with American corporate power. He was a Teutonic control freak. He was inhumane. His buildings were all the same; when Castro's revolution scuppered his administration building for Bacardi in Cuba, he seemingly repurposed the design as the New National Gallery in Berlin. His works were nothing but glass boxes. They were embarrassed by such signs of human life as blinds, whose random arrangements disturbed the implacable steel grids of his elevations. To which his response was to design them with only three settings – open, closed, and half-open.
It didn't help that he was a bit of a bastard – for example in his personal and professional dealings with women – and notoriously tried to get along with the Nazis, including signing a petition in support of Hitler (though he had also designed a monument to the left-wing Spartacist uprising). But then, with alarming rapidity, the sub-hippy postmodernists who challenged Mies themselves became identified with American corporate power. Ever since the 1980s, a long, slow reappraisal of Mies has been going on, of which Detlef Mertins's imposing 500-page work sets out to be the definitive statement.