Mies van der Rohe: Regular or Super? is a 60-minute Canadian documentary film of the legendary 20th century architect (1886-1969) that's currently on a tour of North American museums, but its distributors tell me that it should be available on DVD in a month or so.
Two-thirds of Regular or Super is a fairly conventional biography of Mies that would fit in nicely with the programming on A&E or the History Channel. But it's book-ended with an annoying postmodern twist. The film begins and ends with lengthy shots of one of Mies van der Rohe's last and sadly, least important buildings--an Esso gas station (hence the title), along with interviews with its customers.
The gas station was built on Nun's Island near Montreal, to fuel and repair the cars of those who lived in the series high-rise condominiums that Mies's firm had designed to open in conjunction with Expo '67, Montreal's World's Fair. Near the end of documentary, we learn that Mies had little to do with this gas station; it was designed by Mies's chief lieutenant, Joseph Fujikawa. Mies merely glanced at his plans and signed off on them.
Fujikawa appears several times in Regular or Super. He was a student of Mies's at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the 1940s, joined Mies's architectural practice in the 1950s, and later became one of the principals in Fujikawa-Johnson, Mies's Chicago-based successor firm, before passing away in early 2004. (Full disclosure: I met and spent a half hour interviewing Fujikawa on a sort of Miesian architectural pilgrimage to Chicago in late 1997; he appeared to be a heck of a nice guy. He was also an excellent architect in his own right, who could design buildings far more impressive--and far larger--than an Esso gas station.)
Fujikawa who one of several employees that Mies hired to staff his architectural practice to fill the overflow of commissions it was receiving in the 1950s and '60s. They received many of their projects thanks to Mies's chief benefactor, who is also mentioned in Regular or Super, Herb Greenwald. In 1946, he was a 29-year-old former rabbinical scholar who had wanted to break into the burgeoning post-war real estate boom, and was looking for a top-flight architect to be associated with his projects. To his surprise, he discovered one of the best, living and teaching in Chicago. Greenwald died in a plane crash in 1959; his successor firm continued an association with Mies's architectural office, and hired it for the Nun's Island project.