Here’s a scary photo, sent to the TradArch list by Gerald Forsburg, who imagines a horror movie in which Farnsworth House, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is flooded, with its occupants struggling to escape. He links to an Architectural Record story on Farnsworth that proposes putting the famous glass box on a hydraulic lift to protect it from flooding. Farnsworth House is already a monster and a horror show in my book, but even I would not want to see it succumb to Mother Nature. It is too useful an example of what can go wrong when fawlty principles dominate architecture. Save Farnsworth House, I say, but let those who love it pay the $3 million tab for the lift.
Farnsworth House, in Plano, Ill., was completed in 1951. It flooded in 2008 and was closed four months while repairs were made. Some have suggested that raising the landscape or fixing things upriver would be cheaper than a system of hydraulic lifts. But at least that would be the modernist high-tech solution and would not offend Mother Nature’s dignity – not, that is, unless her mysterious ways are inimical to the future of Farnsworth House.