Marianne Burkhalter Christian Sumi

Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969)
From Landscape to icon, from symmetry to balance

Work in progress

The Resorhouse 1938-1942 is Mies van der Rohe's first project in the USA, planned on the foundations of an unrealized previous project by Philippe Goodwin over the Snake River (Wyoming Jackson Hole). Goodwin is (together Edward Durell Stone) the architect of the Museum of Modern Art in NY. The 3 picture montages illustrate the view from the living room (stretched across the river) into the landscape.

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1st variant. The photomontage shows the view of the rather poor waters of the Snake River with a wooden jetty in the foreground and the mountain range in the background.

2nd variant: The somewhat unattractive foreground is completely hidden, the gaze is now directed to the impressive silhouette of the “Grand Teton” (large nipple).

What both montages have in common is the rigid, classically symmetrical image composition. When mirrored, the column and window frame create a strong central perspective depth effect, comparable to the painting by Piero della Francesca, ideal citiy portico (reference by Christoph Girot).

Two remarks

1. In the collage by Danforth and Priestley, two former students of Mies van der Rohe in Berlin, the background is replaced with a film still from the famous epic film "The Big Trail" from 1930, directed by Raoul Walsh with John Wayne as actor. The film is about a convoy of settlers who are heading west over the “Oregon Trail”. Originally Gary Cooper should have played the leading role, but at short notice the then unknown John Wayne was given the role. It was the beginning of his career as a western hero.

2. The collage of the living room now consists of a “standing”, vertical painting by Paul Klee (“bunte Mahlzeit” as an unfolded dining table) and a “reclining”, horizontal, wooden counter element. The support and window frame on the left are covered by the paintinhg and thus the symmetrical composition is canceled. With the horizontal counter, however, the disturbed balance is restored (wieder hergestelltes Gleichgewicht, Paul Klee). The description is to be further specified.

This means that the development of the image leads from a realistic, classically symmetrical composition with a strong effect of depth to an abstract, modern, asymmetrical, "flat" composition, from a perspective to a composition parallel to the image (Bildparallelität, Martino Stierli), from the image of the real landscape to iconographic exaggeration of the same. The film still searches for the typical, cliched features of the place and thus gives the project the most general character possible: (“building in the landscape”, the wild west by John Wayne) and thus refers to the urge of Mies van der Rohe for typification, abstraction and generalization; is to be further deepened and clarified.

The group of riders in a rocky landscape by the water can only be seen faintly in the picture. The question remains whether it is riders of the convoy or bandits who ambush the convoy.

The 3-dimensional reconstruction of the image (Christian Sumi together with Gregory Tsantilas) illustrates the layered structure of the project, the image of John Wayne and his adversary illustrates the “semantic explosive power” of the artificial background.

Literature follows