Photos by Melissa Chua
An architect’s glass house may be a client’s glass coffin.
Last weekend we visited the celebrated Farnsworth House, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s only notable Chicago-area residential home project, in Plano, IL. The glass box, with its exquisite travertine marble terrace that seems to glide past the floating home, is a gleaming forest beauty that appears to go far beyond the ideal retreat, yet fall short of what one really needs to live.
Mies took the “adaptation to nature” as his obsessive inspiration for the design of the house. After stepping inside, we felt as if we were fictional characters of a snow globe in the hands of an outside world peering in. Dr. Edith Farnsworth, for whom the house was built, spent over 20 years trying to reconcile its elegance with its impracticality, and to call it “home” cost her tens of thousands of dollars and many years of scandal.
The Farnsworth house is a classic example of how an artist's ideal may not correspond to a livable reality.