Farnsworth House

Trip Start Jan 06, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday, July 16th

We arrived at the Farnsworth House Visitor center a little bit after 1:00pm.  We had hoped to be there about 10 till 1:00 but the way our GPS took us, there was a bridge out, so we were a bit delayed.  Even though we were a little late, they let us catch up to the 1 o'clock tour. 
It was a small group of 9 people, which was nice.  For those that don't know, the Farnsworth house was designed and built by Mies Van Der Rohe.  He was already a well known German architect in Europe, especially when talking about Modern architecture, when he fled Nazi Germany, and began work at Illinois Institute of Technology.  According to our docent this was his first residential project to be built in the United States. It was built as a weekend retreat for Dr. Edith Farnsworth. 

The glass pavilion is raised 5'-3"above the ground next to the Fox River, surrounded by forest and rural prairies.  There were two reasons for the elevated floor.  First, since it was at eye level and you couldn't see the floor, it was to give the illusion that the furnishings were floating.  The second was to avoid the 100-year flood plain.  While Mies did do his research on flood plains, this was still an issue, as the house has been flooded 4 times. Two of which were very costly.  

The highly crafted pristine white structural steel frame and all-glass walls define the simple rectilinear interior space, letting nature and light engage the interior space.
A wood-panelled core, housing 2 bathrooms, kitchen, mechanical closet and fireplace is positioned within the open space.  This core helps to create living, dining and sleeping spaces without using full height walls.  Alot of this wood core had to be refinished due to the floods. 
The kitchen is a really neat area, while it is sort of tight from counter to wall, the wall is glass so you don't feel closed in.  It actually is a really nice sized kitchen with a lot of storage (pretty much the only storage in the house)

There are full height draperies on the perimeter, allowing the inhabitant to have some privacy.  The docent said the way Mies envisioned it was that the drapes would be closed at night and the interior would be lit by floor lamps. 

Mies is also associated with the phrase "God is in the Details" and it was seen at this house, with the joinery of the structures so well detailed the attachments were never visible in order to keep crisp, clean lines.

Again this was another building I've seen and read about throughout school, so it was awesome to see it and experience it in person.

The tour took us around the outside where we were allowed to photograph anything.  And we were also allowed inside but not allowed to take photographs.  But the great thing about a glass house is that you can see most of it from the outside. So I hope you enjoy some of the shots we got.  We were definitely glad we were able to get in on the tour.

As an added bonus, the "LumenHAUS" designed/built by Virginia Tech students was on site.  It won the 2009 DOE Solar Decathlon competition (international competition).  Here is a great link about it: http://www.lumenhaus.com/about/index.html. And here is an even better link to a youtube video about the house http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9g7MADAv60.
This was really neat to see and walk around in.  Apparently it has traveled and been displayed in D.C. and Times Square also.  But since there were only 9 of us, we were able to get in and play with all the cabinets and gadgets and spaces. Much different from the farnsworth house where you were afraid to touch anything, haha.  It was really neat to see all the green technology incorporated in this facility.  To skim a few, it had computer operated insulated panels, screens, and photovoltaics. It also had wetland filtration ponds for grey water treatment, and a rainwater collection device.  The docent said it is rumored that this concept house is going to be "mass" produced and could soon be available for purchase for around $250,000.

That completed our trip to the Farnsworth House.  We both agreed, the houses were really cool, but we weren't sure if we could actually live full time in either.  So, we hopped back in our sweet ride and headed to Oak Park to continue our architecture experience around Chicago.
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