Everywhere I look, I see new houses being built that are larger, more ornate, and require more maintenance than older homes my area. Maybe I’m just noticing it more, because I am at the stage where I want less.
I truly believe that less house to take care of would give me more time to travel, more money in my pocket, and generally make my life more enjoyable.
Spending an afternoon in the country with Mies van der Rohe showed me that my thinking is right on target for the next phase of my life.
|ON A RECENT TRIP TO CHICAGO WITH A GROUP OF DESIGN
STUDENTS, I FINALLY HAD THE TIME TO VISIT A HOUSE
I STUDIED IN SCHOOL. I WAS CURIOUS TO SEE IF ALL THE
ATTENTION IT HAD RECEIVED OVER THE YEARS WAS WARRANTED.
|NESTLED ON OVER 60 ACRES ON THE FOX RIVER IN PLANO, IL.,
THE FARNSWORTH HOUSE IS ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS, AND MOST
PHOTOGRAPHED HOUSES IN THE WORLD. ON THE DAY I
VISITED, THE FOX WAS SWOLLEN WELL BEYOND IT’S BANKS.
|AS I TREKKED DOWN THE WINDING PATH, I CAUGHT MY BREATH
AT MY FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE HOUSE. THE SIMPLICITY OF THE WHITE HOUSE
WAS STUNNING AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF GLORIOUS GREEN FOLIAGE.
|AT A COMPACT 2400 SQUARE FEET, THE HOUSE, THAT MIES BUILT AS A
WEEKEND GETAWAY FOR DR. EDITH FARNSWORTH, SITS PERCHED ON EIGHT STEEL PILLARS, GIVING IT THE EFFECT OF FLOATING ON AIR. THIS
CONFIGURATION SUITED MIES THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE IN WHERE A
CLEAR-SPAN STRUCTURE CREATES A MULTI-FUNCTIONAL SPACE, BUT IT ALSO SERVES ANOTHER PURPOSE: IT HELPS PROTECT THE HOUSE FROM FLOODING.
|I WASN’T PREPARED TO FALL IN LOVE WITH FARNSWORTH HOUSE, BUT I DID.|
AS I SPENT MORE TIME ON THE PROPERTY, I FOUND MYSELF FANTASIZING
ABOUT LIVING IN A BEAUTIFUL STRUCTURE LIKE THIS ONE,
WHERE I HAVE WHAT IS NEEDED, AND NOT ONE THING MORE.
|THE MIES DESIGNED BRNO CHAIR SITS PATIENTLY AT THE HEAD OF A DESK DESIGNED BY DESCENDANTS OF DANIEL BURNHAM, THE ARCHITECT
OF THE MASTER PLAN FOR REBUILDING CHICAGO AFTER THE FIRE OF 1871.
A PAIR OF BRNO SIDE CHAIRS AWAIT GUESTS.
|A VIEW OF THE GALLEY KITCHEN, WITH A BEDROOM CHAIR BEYOND.|
|NOW THIS IS DINING WITH A VIEW!
A SET OF MIES MR SIDE CHAIRS WITH LACED LEATHER SEAT BACKS
SURROUND THE DINING TABLE. ONE OF TWO VERY SIMPLE
BATHROOMS HIDES BEHIND THE DOOR. ALL OF THE MECHANICAL,
ELECTRICAL, AND PLUMBING SYSTEMS ARE CONTAINED IN THIS CENTRAL CORE.
|THERE IS A SPECIAL CONNECTION BETWEEN THE I-BEAM SUPPORTS,
THE STEEL FRAMED PATIO, AND THE TRAVERTINE FLOOR SURFACE. THIS CONNECTION IS WHAT ALLOWS THE HOUSE TO “FLOAT” ABOVE THE GROUND.
THE BOAT HOUSE WAS OVERTAKEN BY THE SWOLLEN FOX RIVER.
|THE MESS AND MUCK LEFT BEHIND BY RECENT INCLEMENT WEATHER PREVENTED ME FROM BEING ABLE TO PHOTOGRAPH THE BEDROOM, OR VISIT THE TENNIS COURTS AND PAVILION. I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT DID NOT KEEP
ANY MEMBER OF MY TOUR GROUP FROM WISHING THAT FARNSWORTH HOUSE WAS THEIR HOUSE. TO A PERSON, NONE OF US WANTED TO LEAVE!
I learned a lot during my visit to Farnsworth House. I discovered some things about the property that I was not taught in school, I learned that Mies designs weren’t quite as perfect as he claimed (Hello, flat roof!), I heard the whole story about the complicated relationship between Edith and Mies, and I also learned some things about myself in the process.
I was reminded that great architecture is meant to be experienced, not just gazed upon in lovely photographs. It was a transformative, reaffirming visit for me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share it with you.
|ON A SLIGHTLY SADDER NOTE, THIS TREE IS SEVERELY DAMAGED AND IS SCHEDULED TO BE REMOVED. HELD IN PLACE BY STEEL CABLES, THE TREE GROUNDS THE PROPERTY WITH THE REMAINS OF IT’S MAJESTY.
I HOPE A GENEROUS SOUL STEPS IN TO HELP THE NATIONAL TRUST REPLACE IT!
If you go:
●Plano is about an hour outside of Chicago.
●No indoor photography is allowed.
●Wear comfortable shoes. Bring a spare pair or a towel in case it’s muddy.
●Mosquito repellant would be useful.
●Be sure and take notice of the return air ventilation system and drapery mounts. They were years ahead of their time.
●Be sure to notice the Tugendhat chair in the living area. It is often mistaken for the popular Barcelona chair, but the seat is wider and it has different legs!