Mies & more.
Special Interest Group
Master of modern “skin and bones” architecture, Mies van der Rohe left a legacy that informs today’s most visionary designers. In 1938, Mies left Germany and settled in Chicago, where he taught at—and designed the campus of—the Illinois Institute of Technology. Eighteen Mies buildings still stand here, among the world’s largest collections of his buildings.
The Mies van der Rohe Society was established to promote his legacy as well as to preserve these treasures at IIT. While Director of the Mies van der Rohe Society, Justine Jentes, approached R. Crusoe with a request: Create a journey to the Czech Republic and Germany that would allow the members to examine the architect’s work within a broader context.
Crusoe did just that. Working closely with Justine’s contacts in Europe as well as our own experts on the Continent, a Crusoe travel specialist developed a nine-day journey to the Czech Republic and Germany that fit the bill. The theme of the journey was architectural restoration and the commitment to preserving key elements of the past. But the journey had to be about much more than brick and mortar.
“We learned an enormous amount about the politics of the countries we visited,” says Justine, “because politics play a huge part in the ifs and whys and hows of restoration. We got a really good grasp of the context in which rebuilding was allowed to take place.”
One of the highlights of the tour was Villa Tugendhat, a modernist icon Mies designed in Brno, Czech Republic, in 1930. Thanks to careful planning, Crusoe was able to get the group into the villa on a private visit, accompanied by Iveta Cerna, the lead architect and head of the villa’s extensive restoration project. The group was thrilled with the experience, and it was made all the more remarkable by Iveta’s presence.
Speaking of special people, Justine raves about the Crusoe guides. “In Dresden,” recalls Justine, “our guide was super-knowledgeable—a terrific storyteller with a great sense of humor.
“In Berlin, Kerstin was just outstanding, and our time with her and her husband, Kai, was really, really special. He is an extraordinary man with a very interesting background, sophisticated, and worldly and smart—and absolutely gracious and charming.”
Crusoe arranged for Kerstin and Kai to host a special program in Berlin: a screening of the film “Good Bye Lenin!” followed by dinner and a lively discussion about the division of Berlin. Kai grew up in West Berlin, Kerstin in East Berlin.
“This was a very, very special moment. The division is a distinct piece of Berlin’s character, and they were able to convey it to us in very human terms.”
The group spent a fair amount of time touring other Mies masterpieces. But Crusoe added cultural context and depth to the journey through a variety of other visits. Dresden’s old town, for instance. Checkpoint Charlie. Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin. The Reichstag. Potsdam’s Russian and Dutch quarters. Marvelously over-the-top Sanssouci Palace and Cecilienhof, where Churchill, Stalin, and Truman met in 1945 to carve up Europe.
There was art to view, including a Gerhard Richter retrospective and ample time on Museum Island.
There was a Berlin Philharmonic concert conducted by Claudio Abbado, and a delightful cruise on the Spree River.
The travelers sampled Czech and German specialties in some of Crusoe’s favorite fine restaurants (though lunch at a currywurst stand was a big hit, too).
“In our group, some of us knew a great deal about architecture and construction, and some of us didn’t,” says Justine. “The trip had to appeal not just to diehard fans of Mies, but also to those of us with a broader focus. R. Crusoe did a really, really nice job of integrating architecture and design with great meals, hotels, museums, sightseeing, etc. But everyone found a hook during the tour, which was great.”