09 January 2008

The Farnsworth House and Mies's Inspiration

I wrote the other day about John Black Lee and his discussion, during New Canaan’s recent Modern House Day, of what he considered to be the five great houses in America. What led him to that topic was a digression about the Farnsworth House, in Illinois, designed by Mies Van der Rohe for Edith Farnsworth. Lee said his mother had been a college classmate of Edith Farnsworth and that one of the reasons she was so eager to have Mies design a house for her was that, as John Lee put it, she had the hots for him.

I realize that’s gossipy and maybe not relevant to the design of the Farnsworth House, but it made me at least raise my eyebrows in amusement when I watched a really interesting four-minute video tour of the Farnsworth House on a blog called Mid-Century Modern Interiors. I don’t know who produced it or who the host and narrator is, but it’s well-done and informative. In it, the host refers to the house as being “a difficult and adversarial collaboration between a driven client and unyielding architect.”

An unyielding architect? I inferred from John Black Lee that Edith Farnsworth’s interest in Mies was unrequited. Maybe it had to be for Mies to concentrate on producing what the narrator of the video calls a work of art.

Take a look at the video, here. -- TA

1 comment:

Tamara said...

I love stories like this! It reminds me that these homes were designed by and for flesh and blood human beings with their own ideals, passions, needs.