Floating Farnsworth House

Farnsworth House during a flood. (Archtiectural Record)

Farnsworth House during a flood. (Archtiectural Record)

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.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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3 Responses to Floating Farnsworth House

  1. Gerald Forsburg says:

    The Farnsworth House is a wonderful concept in modern architecture, succeeding in showcasing modern engineering, and also as a means to increase visual connectivity between the interiors and the surrounding Nature.


  2. Roy Lewis says:

    Put it on wheels and tow it away like the mobile home it so closely resembles.


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