OMG. I have seen the Farnsworth Home so many, many times in various books, touted as the quintessential example of mid-century modern minimalism. I never noticed it was near Chicago. SCORE.
Well...near Chicago is a bit of an exaggeration. It is about an 90 minutes east of where we were staying in Libertyville, IL (more towards the North side of Chicago). But it was a pleasant drive and we went in a convertible. (YAY CUZ).
The Farnsworth House was built in 1951 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and is located near Plano, Illinois. The client was a well-to-do unmarried lady doctor. From the Farsnworth site:
First conceived in 1945 as a country retreat for the client, Dr. Edith Farnsworth, the house as finally built appears as a structure of Platonic perfection against a complementary ground of informal landscape. This landscape is an integral aspect of Mies van der Rohe’s aesthetic conception. The house faces the Fox River just to the south and is raised 5 feet 3 inches above the ground, its thin, white I-beam supports contrasting with the darker, sinuous trunks of the surrounding trees. The calm stillness of the man-made object contrasts also with the subtle movements, sounds, and rhythms of water, sky and vegetation.
Above a little detail of the I-beams. This home is absolutely stunning. When they finally let you into it, the views are amazing. It is kind of like a tree house nestled amongst the foliage with views of the river.
Dr. Farnsworth had the usual contentious relationship with her architect that we all eventually have. The project took too long, cost too much, and he wouldn't listen to her (what else is new). He was hell bent on creating a pristine example of minimalism, and Dr. Farnsworth wanted a closet. Women. The tour guide hinted that Dr. Farnsworth and Mies van der Rohe had a bit of an affair during the construction of the home. But, honestly, no one really has any proof of this, from what I have scanned through on the interweb.
I am guessing the affair ended badly as they sued each other in 1953. She wasn't happy with the cost overruns and the construction delays. And he wasn't happy that she wasn't paying him for the cost overruns. Apparently Mies was super picky, for example selecting the marble stone for the floors piece by piece, personally, over several weeks. Mind you, the home cost $78K to construct in 1951. That is HUGE money, back in the day, for essentially a 1,500 square foot rural farmland weekend retreat ($648K in 2012 dollars... not counting the 60 acres of farmland).
The kitchen is the ONLY area of the house that contains cabinets (both bathrooms -- yes somehow there are two--contain no cabinets). Mies expected his female client to keep all of her weekend possessions in the kitchen cabinets, including her clothes. Ms. Farnsworth insisted that a wardrobe be added. The wardrobe has been removed due to the extensive flooding issues. Picture below shows the wardrobe in place. Kind of blocked the view? Mies probably hated it.
The home is located near the Fox River on a flood plane. Mies positioned the home, on stilts more or less, five feet above the ground. Alas, this was not nearly enough.
|Courtesy of Chicago Tribune|
Seriously? Mies and Farnsworth would have never located this home here if they even suspected it would flood. I am sure both would approve of moving the house up the hill and out of harms way. Sometimes, in my humble opinion, historical preservation can go a little too far.
Side view facing the "bedroom" from a close by grove trees.
Experimenting a little with panoramic photography. I like... (click on photo so see the photo across your screen in its full glory).
Other mid-century modern architects:
- Mid-century modern home tour: Eichler
- John Lautner hiding in Orange County, CA on Balboa Island
- A Neutra with nine lives in Newport Beach, CA