Saturday, September 7, 2013

Farnsworth House

I am so pleased to have a guest here with us today - my father!  When my parents were visiting a couple of weeks ago we did a little architectural tour of Connecticut.  Before arriving in the New York area however they spent a little time in Illinois, visiting Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House just outside Chicago.  Seeing as my father is an architect and architectural professor in France I thought that this would be a great opportunity to have him write about Mies' glass house seeing as I spoke about our trip to Johnson's house here.  Merci!

Visit to the Farnsworth House - Plano, Illinois
designed by Mies van der Rohe 1949 1951

This summer we had the privilege delight of visiting the Farnsworth House. Coming from Europe we booked our visit long time in advance. The tickets, the authorisation to have inside private photography, the car, the GPS, all were ready even the sun was at the rendez-vous.
An hour and 15 minutes from downtown Chicago we arrived in rural, farmland Illinois. Along a small country road a sign indicate the “visiting centre“.

After the formalities we watched a short movie that introduced us to all the details related to the history of the house: Dr. Edith Farnsworth, Ludwid Mies van der Rohe, how they met at a dinner party where she had apparently organized to be sited next to him, how she asked him to recommend an architect, and how he said that he could do it.

Mies previous house the Tugendhat dated from 1930 and was a very large house built in Europe with an unlimited budget [1]. So almost 20 years later Mies got the opportunity to build a real glasshouse.

By that time Mies was well established in North America, he was the dean of architecture at IIT and had gained recognition. With the Farnsworth commission he was given the opportunity to build a project that would represent his ideas about architecture.

Indeed the Farnsworth is the realisation of Mies’ ideals:
“The Farnsworth House consists of three horizontal planes: a terrace, a floor and a roof. Welded to the leading edge of each plane are steel columns that keep them all suspended in mid-air. Because they do not rest on the columns, but merely touch them in passing, these horizontal elements seem to be held to their support by magnetism. Floor and roof appear as opaque planes defining the top and bottom of a volume whose sides are simply large panel of glass. The Farnsworth House is, indeed, a quantity of air caught between a floor and a roof “[2]

Finished in 1951 it is still a grand lady worth the detour.

[1] I would recommend reading the book by Simon Mawer “The Glass room “ Little, Brown Book Group a fictional account of the history of that house.
[2] H.R. Hitchcock, A.Drexler, Built in USA : Post-war Architecture, NY, Simon and Schuster 1952 p 20-21


  1. Thanks to Dad for the post. Get him working more often. He's good :-)

    1. I know! Gonna have to twist his arm...
      Also nice to have a new voice on things too!

  2. These last two posts have been great. Very much appreciate your father's footnotes! We're heading to Chicago at the end of this month and are looking forward to seeing some of Mies' other work as well. These two are on the wishlist for sure. xo

  3. thank you, i enjoyed this visit here


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