Address: P.O. Box 194, 14520 River Road | Farnsworth House | | Visit Website
Latitude/Longitude: 41.635144, -88.535862
Built as a weekend retreat for well-to-do, adventurous and independent Dr. Edith Farnsworth, the Farnsworth House is one of three residential houses by Mies van der Rohe in the United States. It is also an instructive lesson in the limits of photography to express such a sensory, kinesthetic, spatial experience.
One approaches the house on a path parallel to the Fox River, a luxurious, yet “naturalistic” landscape designed by American landscape architect Lanning Roper. Wandering by the moving river, your eye is suddenly drawn inland, across a sweeping, mowed meadow to a weightless apparition, the house. With no foundation, only a central cylindrical core, the house meets the ground only through the elegant structural legs of the walls. Anticipating future flooding, Mies raised the “floor” of the house five feet off the ground, which proved not to be high enough (as river levels have risen over time the house has been flooded, with severe damage to the beautiful and expensive wood panelling, more than once).
The single-story house consists of eight I-shaped steel columns that support the roof and floor frameworks, and therefore are both structural and expressive. In between these columns are floor-to-ceiling windows around the entire house, opening up the rooms to the woods around it. The windows are what provide the beauty of Mies’ idea of tying the residence with its tranquil surroundings. His idea for shading and privacy was through the many trees that were located on the private site. Mies explained this concept in an interview about the glass pavilion stating, “Nature, too, shall live its own life. We must beware not to disrupt it with the color of our houses and interior fittings. Yet we should attempt to bring nature, houses, and human beings together into a higher unity.”
Although there were some problems with the maintenance of the house due to flooding and livability of the design that involved complaints about the poor ventilation of the interior as well as cost overruns, there is no doubt that the Farnsworth House is the essence of simplicity in its purest form. The brilliance in its artistic design became the inspiration for other works, such as Philip Johnson’s Glass House. The man-made geometric form creates a relationship the extraneous landscape surrounding it to exemplify “dwelling” in its simplest state. As Mies stated on his achievement, “If you view nature through the glass walls of the Farnsworth House, it gains a more profound significance than if viewed from the outside. That way more is said about nature-it becomes part of a larger whole.”
Contributed by ArchiTeam
⇒ Architecture Guide to
⇒ Learn more about: