Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Reason to Read

I left school when I was fourteen years old, so I had no education. I worked for an architect. When I came to his office, he said, "Here is your table." I cleaned it up and looked in the drawer. What I found there were two things, a magazine called Die Zukunft. It was a weekly magazine. It was a very interesting magazine. It was partly a political magazine, but in the way as Walter Lippman would talk about politics, not a party affair. It was a cultural magazine, let us say that. It talked about music. It talked about poetry. It talked about Architecture, but very seldom. That was one thing.

Then I found another pamphlet about Pierre-Simon Laplace theory. That was these two things. From then on I started to read this magazine, Die Zunkunft. I bought it every Sunday morning and read it. Then I started to read.

A few years later, When I came to Berlin, I had to build a house for a philosopher. It was at the university in Berlin. There I met quite a number of people, and I started to read more and more. When this philosopher came to my office for the first time--I had an office in my apartment, and my books were lying on a huge drafting board, about a foot high--he looked around and he saw all these books. He said, "For heaven's sake, who advised you on your library?" I said, "Nobody. I started to buy books and read them." He was very surprised. He saw no discipline in it or anything like that.

At that time, we were working for Peter Behrens. There were other architects in Berlin. Alfred Messel, he was a very fine architect, but a Palladio man or something like that.

I was interested in what Architecture is. I asked somebody, "what is Architecture?" But he didn't answer me. He said, "Just forget it. Just work. You will find that out by yourself later." I said, "That's a fine answer to my question." But I wanted to know more. I wanted to find out. That was the reason I read; for nothing else. I wanted to find out things, I wanted to be clear. What is going on. What is our time and what is it all about. Otherwise, I didn't think we would be able to do something reasonable. In this way, I read a lot. I bought all these books and paid for them in all the fields.

by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
New York, 1955

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