In the series "Conversations with ..." published by the Princeton Architectural Press, which also includes conversations with Le Corbusier, Louis Khan and Rem Koolhaas, the latest addition is "Conversations with Mies van der Rohe".
The word "conversation" is something of an exaggeration here - a better description would be 'the master's monologues', because basically Mies’ conversational partners hardly appear and are reduced to the function of providing the prompts. The publishers themselves seem to follow the same attitude, because apart from a few mentions of the year there is no precise indication of the source of the interview, let alone the name of the interviewer. In spite of this the book is a wonderful read. Mies is at his best, laconic, stoical, stubborn, making importance statements about architecture without waffle, self-importance or pompous affectation.
Mies on clients: "Never talk to a client about architecture. Talk to him about his children. That is simply good politics. He will not understand what you have to say about architecture most of the time. An architect of ability should be able to tell a client what he wants. Most of the time a client never knows what he wants. He may, of course, have some very curious ideas, and I do not mean to say that they are silly ideas. But untrained in architecture they cannot know what is possible and what is not possible.“
Mies on colleagues and teamwork: "I do not think very much of this sort of forced teamwork myself. The teamwork in our field is between architect, mechanical engineer, and structural engineer. That is where teamwork comes in. It is no use working with other architects. What can they do? Who does what? I think it would be better, say, to have different designs and choose. After all, why should I discuss my ideas with someone else? The most important things cannot be discussed anyway. I would prefer not to work with other people. I work with larger firms of architects in different ways but I don’t discuss my ideas with them. I would never do that. The same with the structural engineer. We tell him what we want and he tells us if it is possible. In the field of design the structural engineers, with a few exceptions like Pier Luigi Nervi, do not know what they are doing.“
Mies on architecture: "I was interested in architecture all my life. And I have tried to find out what was said about architecture. I have tried to find out what can influence architecture. I feel that architecture belongs to certain epochs; it expresses the real essence of its times. It was to us a question of truth. How can we find out, know, and feel what is the truth?"
Facts: Moises Puente 95 pages, 31 illustrations, 14 x 20,3 cm, soft cover, Princeton Architectural Press, New York 2008 Publisher's recommended price: 16.99 EUR, English text ISBN 978-1-56898-753-8