Farnsworth House

We are going to another house in the woods!

Farnsworth House

There it is!

Farnsworth House

It looks just like our Lego model 🙂

Farnsworth House

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, born Maria Ludwig Michael Mies, was an architect and designer. Mies has long been considered one of the most important architects of the 20th century. In Europe, before World War II, Mies emerged as one of the most innovative leaders of the Modern Movement, producing visionary projects and executing a number of small but critically significant buildings. After emigrating to the United States in 1938, he transformed the architectonic expression of the steel frame in American architecture and left a nearly unmatched legacy of teaching and building.

Born in Aachen, Germany, Mies began his architectural career as an apprentice at the studio of Peter Behrens from 1908 to 1912. There he was exposed to progressive German culture, working alongside Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. Determined to establish a new architectural style that could represent modern times just as Classical and Gothic had done for their own eras, Mies began to develop projects that, though most remained unbuilt, rocketed him to fame as a progressive architect.

His dramatic modernist debut was his stunning competition proposal for the all-glass Friedricstrasse skyscraper in 1921. He continued with a whole series of pioneering projects, including the temporary German Pavilion for the Barcelona exposition (often called the Barcelona Pavilion) in 1929. In the 1930s he joined the avant-garde Bauhaus design school as director, but faced with growing Nazi political pressure decided to emigrate to America in 1938.

In the US, he became head of the department of architecture at the newly established Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, introducing a new kind of education that would become known as the Second School of Chicago, with works such as Farnsworth House, the Seagram Building and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Mies continued to refine his vision of a monumental “skin and bones” architecture. He sought to create free and open spaces, enclosed within a structural order with minimal presence.

One of Mies’ most famous aphorisms was “less is more”. For many, the architecture of Farnsworth House represents the ultimate refinement of his minimalist beliefs.

Farnsworth House

It was designed and constructed between 1945 and 1951 as a one room weekend retreat, located in a once-rural setting, 89 km southwest of Chicago on a 60-acre (240,000 sqm) estate adjoining the Fox River, in the city of Plano, Illinois. The steel and glass house was commissioned by Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a prominent Chicago medical specialist, as a place where she could engage in her hobbies: playing the violin, translating poetry and enjoying nature. Farnsworth was highly intelligent, articulate and intent on building a very special work of modern architecture. Her instructions for Mies were to design the house as if it were for himself.

Farnsworth House

Mies created a 140 sqm house that is now widely recognized as an iconic masterpiece of the International Style of architecture. The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006 after being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. It is currently owned and run as a house museum by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Farnsworth House

Like many Modernists, Mies worshiped the technology-driven modern era he lived in, but also believed that reconnecting the individual with nature was one of the greatest challenges faced by an urbanized society.

Farnsworth House

With this in mind, Mies conceived Farnsworth House as an indoor-outdoor architectural shelter simultaneously independent of and intertwined with the nature around it. The simple elongated cubic form of the house runs parallel to the flow of the river and is anchored to the site in the cooling shadow of a large and majestic black maple tree. To underline the strong connection with nature, the house was deliberately built on the flood plain near the river’s edge instead of on the flood-free upland portions of the site.

Farnsworth House

The essential characteristics of the house are immediately apparent. The extensive use of clear floor-to-ceiling glass opens the interior to its natural surroundings to an extreme degree. Two distinctly expressed horizontal slabs, which form the roof and the floor, sandwich an open space for living. The slab edges are defined by exposed steel structural members painted pure white. The house is elevated 1.60m above the flood plain by eight steel columns, which are attached to the sides of the floor and ceiling slabs. The end of the slabs extend beyond the column supports, creating cantilevers. The house seems to float weightlessly above the ground it occupies. A third floating slab, an attached terrace, acts as a transition between the living area and the ground. The house is accessed by two sets of wide steps connecting the ground to the terrace and then to the porch. As was often the case with Mies’ designs, the entrance is located on the sunny side, facing the river instead of the access road.

Farnsworth House

The interior appears to be one large room filled with freestanding elements. The space is sub-divided but not partitioned, and flows around two wood blocks that Mies called “cores”, one a wardrobe cabinet and the other a kitchen, toilet, and fire-place block. The larger fire place-kitchen core appears almost as a separate house nestling within the larger glass house. The materials used are quietly luxurious – travertine floors, primavera paneling and silk curtains – and the detailing minimal and meticulous.

Farnsworth House

On its completion, Farnsworth House received accolades in the architectural press, which resulted in many uninvited visitors trespassing on the property to glimpse the latest Mies work of art. Unfortunately Mies and Edith Farnsworth had a falling out over the costs, which had almost doubled the final costs, and the bitter dispute was only resolved after a long and very public court case.

Farnsworth House

Though she continued to use her weekend retreat for almost 20 years, Edith Farnsworth often felt intimidated by the openness of the building. Other complaints included the costs of heating the house and constantly rusting pillars.

Farnsworth House

For some critics, Farnsworth House represents the disconnect between Modernist architecture and the reality of its users’ lives. Nevertheless, the timeless quality of this house is still regarded with reverent fascination by new generations of architects and designers around the world.

Farnsworth House

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