Greetings from Munich, Germany!
I am hoping to continue daily postings for the next 12 days, but some things will be out of my
control (including high traffic on Wi-Fi that keeps resulting in me getting bumped off). If I miss a day here and there, please bear with me. I'm pretty green at juggling this blogging and traveling thing simultaneously. It was manageable while in South Dakota and Colorado given Jimmy and I were driving our own schedules and vehicles. Needless to say, we're no longer in the driver's seat as we tour Germany, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary with Vantage Tours. FYI - that was a preview of coming attractions.
The crazy thing is, my heart is still in Illinois, where Jimmy and I recently visited a very unusual home, a National Historic Landmark. See what you think.
Plano is a small agricultural community of 11,000, fifty-five miles southwest of Chicago. It’s the birthplace of the reaper (no, not the Grim Reaper; the mechanical reaper, as in crops) a time-saving harvesting machine invested by Cyrus Hall McCormick in 1831. Plano is not the big city by any stretch of the imagination, which was the draw for Chicago surgeon Edith Farnsworth when she met Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at a party and eventually commissioned the famed German architect to build the perfect weekend getaway.
The story behind this simple, cubic house spans six-years and a famed relationship between doctor and architect, a relationship according to some sources that went from lovers to lawsuits; a very public falling out when it was all said and done left both parties adversaries for
the rest of their lives. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Jimmy and I visited the now famous Farnsworth House several weeks ago on a beautiful fall day with good friends Lee and Bob Hruby. I chose the fall day months earlier when we purchased tickets online, hoping for a colorful backdrop for this glass house. We were not disappointed.
The house is a testament to Mies’ belief that man (or in this case, woman) can and should exist in harmony with the culture of his time in order to achieve fulfillment. He perceived his world following World War II as one of industrial mass production, a civilization shaped by the forces of rapid technology that compromised the individual spirit. To that end, while still designing traditional neo-classical homes, he began experimenting with a more modernistic style more suitable for this new post-war era. He called his style “skin and bones” architecture that reflected a need for an orderly framework with the space for the freedom needed by the individual human spirit to flourish.
Orderly framework is putting it mildly. But I’ll let you be the judge via the following pictures of the home site that solidified his career aspirations as a pioneering, modern architect.
1. Don’t be fooled by this unassuming structure just off River Road in Plano. This is where all tours of the Farnsworth house begin, at the Visitor’s Center. With Mies credited with the aphorism “less is more,” it's little wonder the historic preservation group responsible for rescuing this piece of art embraces the same philosophy.
In 1968, when the local highway department deemed it necessary to encroach on 2 acres of Edith’s property adjoining the house for a new raised highway bridge over the Fox River, Edith unsuccessfully sued to bring the construction to a halt. She subsequently sold her house 4 years later to a British Lord who just happened to be an architectural aficionado, retiring to her villa in Italy.
natural setting. I was thinking big white crane given the 5 foot stilts on which it rested.
Mies chose to tempt nature by building the 1500 square foot house directly on the flood plain approximately 100 feet from the Fox River. He constructed the house just slightly higher than the 100-year flood level. The house has reportedly flooded at least six times. Two floods, one in 1956 and a second in 1996 surpassed FEMA’s 500 year flood levels. Significant damage to the utilities, glass, wood veneers and furnishings resulted during the worst of the flooding.
The house seemed to float weightlessly above the ground, a haven of tranquility in this pristine setting. Imagine what it would look like with a foot of snow on the ground! With landscaping left to Mother Nature, Mies felt the home would become a “dwelling” in its simplest state. I could live with no more yardwork!
Give me a weekend and I think I could give you a definitive answer, yea or nay, to living in a glass house. It is considered a weekend home after all.