Reviewer biography

Current Reviews

Review Articles

Book Reviews Archive

Regular or Super: Views on Mies van der Rohe

by Joseph Hillel and Patrick Demers, Directors
First Run / Icarus Films, Brooklyn, NY, 2004
VHS, 57 mins., col.
Sales: Video or DVD: $390.00; rental video: $100.00
Distributor’s website: http://www.frif.com.

Reviewed by Roy R. Behrens
Department of Art, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls Iowa 50614-0362 USA


The importance of German architect Mies van der Rohe in the development of Modern-era design, architecture, and design education is beyond question, while he himself continues to be an enigmatic character. There is no shortage of stories, the majority of which concern his proclivity for cigars and martinis and his enigmatic comments about the process of teaching. My favorite, by far, was told by a student at the Bauhaus, where Mies was the final director: Mies was always a bit chunky, and it was this student’s observation that "If you see two people walking toward you, yet, as they come closer, it turns out to be only one person, then it is Mies van der Rohe."

This film is not about his earlier days in Germany, but almost entirely focuses on the second half of his life, in the years that he lived in Chicago. As a point of departure, it uses an innovative gas station that he designed only shortly before his death for an ideal planned community called Monk’s Island near Montreal, Canada. So the film’s title is a pun: When you pull into the gas station, do you fill up with regular gasoline or super? And, at the same time, one can also ask: Does the legacy of Mies amount to regular or super? This little known building is quite interesting, but equally interesting are the camera work and editing in this award-winning film and its insightful commentary, which is enlivened by moments from interviews with a relative of Mies, his students, now-prominent architects such as Rem Koolhaas, and various townspeople who today live in the neighborhood where this historic, unusual building resides.

(Reprinted by permission from Ballast Quarterly Review, Volume 21 Number 1, Autumn 2005.)



Updated 1st February 2006

Contact LDR: ldr@leonardo.org

Contact Leonardo: isast@leonardo.info

copyright © 2006 ISAST