Chicago tour hails architect's legacy

Fri Sep 12, 2008 8:31am EDT
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By Julie Mollins

CHICAGO (Reuters Life!) - In a remote setting on the banks of the Fox River in Illinois sits Farnsworth House, a mansion designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe celebrated for its illusionary properties and its geometric design.

The steel-framed, single-storey house with clear-glass walls made by the German-born, 20th-century modernist architect is constructed on five-foot-high (1.5-meter) columns that give the impression it is floating in space.

It is the focal point of a seven-hour tour by the Chicago Architecture Foundation of Mies van der Rohe's local works, which attracts visitors from around the globe.

"It's one of the great works of architecture of the modern world," Bill Shapiro, the director of the tour, said in an interview.

"It essentially distills a lot of Mies' basic thoughts on architecture. He designed a great work of art by designing something he really wanted to do. The design is really motivated by aesthetic considerations more than anything else. It's kind of a statement of his architecture."


The house, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, is named for Edith Farnsworth, a Chicago-based doctor who hired Mies van der Rohe to build it as a country retreat.

"Mies' concept of universal space; his concept of minimalism expressed as less is more; the idea of almost nothing -- a building as an envelope of space; the idea that you give a floating effect to a building -- these ideas are all embodied in Farnsworth House," Shapiro explained.   Continued...

<p>A view of Farnsworth House on the Fox River in Plano, Illinois on June 22, 2008. Farnsworth House is a single-storey glass-and-steel structure celebrated as a modernist masterpiece for its illusionary properties as much as for its geometric design. REUTERS/Julie Mollins</p>