Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Farnsworth House [The Paint on the Wall]

Greg L. Hickman
Design History + IAR 221
Patrick Lee Lucas
April 7, 2009
Farnsworth House [The Paint on the Wall]
Commissioned by Dr. Edith Farnsworth, Mies Van Der Rohe was relied upon to design a woodland retreat for her. Prior to its completion the design received both nationally and internationally accreditation. A model of the Farnsworth was placed in the New York Museum of Arts in 1947 and was critically acclaimed as a, “radical departure from his last European domestic projects,” by Philip Johnson. Towards reaching its completion in 1951, Mies Van Der Rohe was sued by Farnsworth who claimed that the home was unlivable, but some spectators of the time believed that the lawsuit was out of spite and love. Although she declared the to house to be unlivable; she didn’t sell the home until 1972, twenty-one years after its completion. After being sold in 1972, the next owner, Peter Palumbo hired the Dirk’s Logan, Mies Van Der Rohe’s grandson to restore the home back to its original condition.

The stability of this structure has been altered by the affects of the Fox River in which has risen overtime. Made possible by the usage of steel columns that were integrated into the design and positioned into parallel lines of four, Mies Van Der Rohe was able to elevate the house five feet above the ground. At the time of construction five feet seemed appropriate but over the test of time the home has been flooded, damaging the wood paneling on the interior of the home. The floods led to the restoration of 1996 and the current restoration in 2009 of this home. Aside from the steel columns that had been sanded and painted white; the rest of the Farnsworth house, consist of glass exterior walls with floors made of Italian travertine limestone and a steel framed floor and ceiling. Upon entering the door, guests are greeted by a set of stairs that leads to an elevated deck which contains another set of stairs that continues the circulation onto the front porch and then into the house. The material usage and floor layout contained on the inside of the home are kept simple in reference to the exterior. The wood paneling presented on the inside of the structure is used to house two bathrooms, the kitchen, and the utility areas.

With its simplistic glass walls, the atmosphere of the home changes with time, season, and weather on a daily basis. With this being said, some adore the home’s transparency while others believe that the design is not coherent to its surroundings. Other criticisms that the house received is a feeling of coldness in the sense that all personal belongs and methods of traditional building have been removed from the design. This is where commodity, firmness, and delight enter into the outcome of the design. For centuries people have utilized walls and rooms to separate public and private space and have added simple decorative elements such as interior molding and wall hangings; but with this home, people are forced to take in the outdoors as their paint on the walls.

[1] http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/history.htm
[2] http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/farnsworth/
[3] http://architecture.about.com/od/greatbuildings/ig/Modern-and-Postmodern-Houses/Farnsworth-House.htm


patrick lee lucas said...

STABILITY and TRANSPARENCY provide a nice foil for one another in this house...you begin to talk about both but do not push nearly far enough in your analysis to tie these two opposite design goals together. i think you also miss the opportunity to say something about the classical formalism this building contains as it sits as a new kind of temple in the wilderness, linking back to greek roots. in any event, be far more precise as you communicate about the details, architecture, spatial arrangement, furnishings that come together as a whole here. what might that unity symbolize? all based on what principles?

patrick lee lucas said...

forgot to say: very nice beginning.

Haley said...

My precedent analysis project is The Glass House by Philip Johnson. The Glass House is extremely similar to Mies Van der Rohes Farnsworth house in style, materials and ideas.The reason the houses are so similar is because Philip Johnson took his inspiration from the Farnsworth house and made The Glass House to suit his own style. In both houses I believe that the designers played on the idea of relating to nature and bringing nature into the home. While the Farnsworth house is completely open with no privacy, the Glass House utilizes a circular element that houses the Bathroom and fireplace giving the residents some privacy. The Farnsworth house is elevated by stilts making this its defense mechanism for privacy. The Glass House sits on the land which I feel incorporates it more with nature.