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Farnsworth House - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Project Specifications:


14520 River Rd.Springfield, Illinois, United States

Land Area :

240,000 SQ.M.


Ludwig Mies van der Rohe



Floor Area :

206 SQ.M


Residential complex


The Farnsworth House was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1946 at the request of Dr. Edith Farnsworth, who wanted a second home for relaxation and solitude. The construction of the house, which was completed in 1950, led to a dispute between the architect and client due to its high cost, which was significantly higher than the original estimate. Dr. Farnsworth accused Mies of exceeding the commission, while Mies believed that the wealthy doctor did not fully appreciate the value of his architecture.

Image courtesy by - Archdaily

The doctor also claimed that when she moved into the house at the end of 1950, the roof was leaking and the heating caused condensation on the windows. The disagreement ended up in court, where Mies was eventually victorious and Dr. Farnsworth was required to pay an additional fee for the house.

Despite these issues, the Farnsworth House is still considered an important example of modernist architecture due to its elegant simplicity and open floor plan. However, it had several design flaws, including a lack of air conditioning and a tendency to become hot and humid inside during the warmer seasons. The house has changed hands several times over the years and is now open to the public as a museum.

Image courtesy by - Dwell

The design of the Farnsworth House, which lacks exterior walls and interior partitions, clearly demonstrates a complete renunciation of privacy, a fundamental characteristic of domestic space. The minimal use of materials in the construction of the house is a testament to Mies van der Rohe's minimalist philosophy of "less is more."

The separation of the Farnsworth House from the ground on pillars has been compared to the concept of purity in traditional Japanese architecture. The extensive use of glass throughout the house emphasizes the connection between the interior and exterior spaces, as well as between the public and private realms. The minimal use of partitions and walls creates a feeling of continuity and flow, connecting the individual to nature and interrupting this connection only for the necessary presence of bathrooms and a wardrobe.


Design Philosophy :

The Farnsworth House consists of a metal frame enclosed only by glass, creating a sense of being in a viewpoint and showcasing the surrounding natural beauty. The transparency of the walls allows for a full appreciation of the landscape from the inside and also incorporates the interior of the house into the surrounding environment in a unique way.

Mies van der Rohe carefully considered every aspect of the design and its impact on the site, choosing the location and the materials to suit the conditions.

Image courtesy by - Starflyt

The design of the house purposely does not include any access routes or other elements of urbanization, with the intention of keeping it separate from any nearby human developments such as roads or fences. The house is positioned among the trees as if on tiptoe, without disturbing the grass or the natural flow of the river.

The goal is to preserve the natural surroundings and allow the house to experience nature undisturbed. The location of the house could have been different, but Mies chose to let nature play a role in the design and to work in harmony with it. During the spring, when the river overflows and rises to a level just below the base of the house, the water helps to complete the architect's vision.

The building is supported by two rectangular platforms. The first platform, which serves as a terrace, sits above the ground on four steel pillars and can be accessed via four linear steps. The second platform, which is 1.5 meters above the ground, holds the house and is supported by eight steel pillars. It can be reached by climbing five steps from the first platform.

Image courtesy by - Britannica

The elevated position of the house helps to prevent water from entering the house during times when the river overflows. Despite its emphasis on transparency, the house is a demonstration of Mies' architectural philosophy of "less is more" or "almost nothing." This is expressed through the use of a Palladian villa design, with white beams serving as a transparent screen around the empty space of the house. The emptiness of the space was later filled with intimacy by Philip Johnson in his own house, The Glass House, in New Canaan (1949), in an attempt to emulate his mentor Mies.


Material & Façade :

An architectural work made of steel, laminated glass, and Roman travertine panels for the roof and floor :

1. Pillars :

Image courtesy by - Architizer

The square-sided steel pillars supporting both platforms have undergone sandblasting and painting to give them a polished finish and make the welds nearly invisible. The connections between the pillars are made with structural steel and have been welded in a way that minimizes their appearance.

2. Floor :
3. Facade :

The construction :

1. Relationship with the body of water :

Image courtesy by - wbez

The Farnsworth House is built on pillars above the river level so that it does not obstruct the flow of water. The structure has minimal contact with the ground, and when the river floods, it erases any reference to the banks. The horizontal planes of the house are kept separate from the original terrain, allowing the water to flow freely

2. Static Structure :
3. Pillars :
4. Slabs :
5. Facade :

Drawings :


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