Farnsworth House was commissioned in 1945 by a prominent medical doctor of the time, Edith Farnsworth. She was looking for a space to enjoy her finer hobbies such as poetry, violin and spending time in nature.
After discussing the desire for the retreat at a dinner party Farnsworth enlisted Mr Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design and construct the building. The prospect of designing a unique and very special work of modern architecture was appealing to Mies, who, as a German architect, would have been experiencing a large degree of minimalist influence following the Bauhaus revolution a short while earlier.
The cost of the house translated to approximately $650,000 in today’s money. Farnsworth House was built in what was then a rural setting just outside of Chicago on a 60-acre plot. Mies wanted the retreat to be both independent from and in harmony with nature. There is a bold black maple tree looming over the home and the different levels of the platforms accentuate the geometric separation of the outer deck to the upper deck and home.
Mies placed the entrance on the sunny side of the home so that visitors are required to view the home in its entirety on arrival. Floor to ceiling glass surrounds the home giving a clear 360 view of nature with two single horizontal slabs used for the floor and ceiling. Steel columns provide support and everything is painted white.
The focus on open space becomes evident when going inside. There is a single open room with two concealed wooden blocks, one for the wardrobe and the other for the kitchen, toilet and core (fireplace block). The open spaces can be used as inspiration dictates with no designated areas for sleeping, eating or lounging. The exterior also does not have flower beds or garden furnishings to that the connection to nature is kept as pure as possible.
The house was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and will be the focus of a film project by writer-director Richard Press and HanWay Films.