Over time, this phrase came to be linked to German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
But as revealed in Mies van der Rohe (1950) by Philip Johnson, it was said to him by his boss; also, it appeared in English poet Robert Browning’s 1855 dramatic monologue ‘Andrea del Sarto’.
In 1907, when Mies was in his early twenties, and working for industrial architect Peter Behrens in Berlin, he was asked to design the facade for the west courtyard elevation of the AEG turbine factory.
In the course of his work, Mies decided to show ‘Behrens his drawings. The older man cast his eyes over the emerging designs, then looked up at his young apprentice and proclaimed the immortal phrase ‘Less is more’.
Mies liked the phrase so much that he inadvertently made it his own, as he continually sought to define the modernist ethic. He took Behren’s initial idea of restraint much farther, however, reducing his designs down to minimalist rectilinear forms and pure lines.
Even Mies furniture designs employed cantilevers to enhance their sense of lightness. This was an architecture born of new materials in a new technological age.