Farnsworth House

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  • Topic: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Farnsworth House, International style
  • Pages : 5 (1433 words )
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  • Published : January 9, 2012
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Cultural context

In this essay I will be discussing the architectural qualities of the ‘Farnsworth House’ by ‘Mies Van Der Rohe’.

Mies Van Der Rohe was born in Germany in 1886 and died in USA in 1969. He managed to complete projects such as ‘Commonwealth Plaza’, ‘860-880 Lake Shore Drive apartments’, Crown hall’ and ‘Seagram Building’ in which the structure for all was out of steel and glass. (Franz SCHULZE 2004:294)

It could be said that architectural qualities can be the set of qualities that determine how good a result is. These qualities can be described as both functional and ‘non-functional’ requirements that can be demanded.

The Farnsworth House is significant in the way it affected architectural designs that came after it.

The ‘Farnsworth House’ is a classic example of modern architecture. The idea of the Farnsworth house began in 1945 where Mies Van Der Rohe met a medical specialist named Edith Farnsworth. The Farnsworth House was built for her as a weekend resort, a cabin or small vacation house. ‘…the idea of Mies building a small vacation house for her on some land she had recently bought outside of Chicago in Plano…’ (jsnfmn-02 December 08).

The authorization for the Farnsworth House to be built was given in 1949 and the house was complete in 1951, located in USA, Chicago and just like Mies Van Der Rohe’s other buildings in the USA the structure for the Farnsworth house was out of steel “…consists of eight wide-flange steel stanchions…” (Vandenberg Maritz 2005:21). The Farnsworth house has reinforced concrete piers, steel girders, steel columns and steel beams as the main structure. The house consists of two rectangular pieces above the ground bracketed by steel columns. The stairs connect the ground to the terrace that is then connected to the main house piece. A Steel frame allows open planned interiors in which walls (for Farnsworth house it could be said that the walls are replaced by glass) could be freely disposed and also the steel frame makes it clear that the roof does not rest on the columns. The Farnsworth House’s structural frame is visible unlike other building types where the structure is often hidden. Apart from steel and glass the house consists of materials like travertine, wood and plaster.

It could be said that the walls of the house have evolved into glass windows therefore the Farnsworth house is highly transparent to the surroundings. The person living in the house feels as if they are living with nature even thought they are inside a ‘glass box’. “…A most exhilarating feeling is created by the elimination of visual barriers between interior and exterior…” (Lohan,Pirk 1945-50:18).

The glass is held by thin steel stops that are attached to the rectangular steel bar. The connection between the stops and the frame is achieved by an invisible plug welds on the inside and over-head machine screws on the outside. (Vandenberg Maritz 2005:21)

The Farnsworth House is integrated so closely to the landscape, ‘…In a low-lying meadow beside the Fox River at Plano, Illinois, stands a serene pavilion of glass and travertine…’ (Vandenberg Maritz 2005:17) It can be argued whether the location of the Farnsworth house disturbs its qualities due to the flood prone Fox River being close to it.

The floor level of the Farnsworth house is raised by 5 feet 3 inches above the ground, this was done to prevent the flood coming from the Fox River near by damaging the house. It was a precaution taken however it was not tested against a high intense flood therefore the security and the reliability of the Farnsworth House could be criticized with the threat of flooding especially with the fact that global warming is raising the water levels all over the world. ‘…Record rainfall on Sept. 13 and 14 raised the river more than 14 feet above its normal level, filling the house with 15 inches of water…’ (ARCHITECT Magazine, 05 December 08)

The interior of the Farnsworth house involves a...
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