The Farnsworth House is one of the most significant of Mies van der Rohe’s works, equal in importance to such canonical monuments as the Barcelona Pavilion, built for the 1929 International Exposition and the 1954-58 Seagram Building in New York. Its significance is two-fold. First, as one of a long series of house projects, the Farnsworth House embodies a certain aesthetic culmination in Mies van der Rohe’s experiment with this building type. Second, the house is perhaps the fullest expression of modernist ideals that had begun in Europe, but which were consummated in Plano, Illinois. As historian Maritz Vandenburg has written in his monograph on the Farnsworth House: “Every physical element has been distilled to its irreducible essence. The interior is unprecedentedly transparent to the surrounding site, and also unprecedentedly uncluttered in itself. All of the paraphernalia of traditional living –rooms, walls, doors, interior trim, loose furniture, pictures on walls, even personal possessions – have been virtually abolished in a puritanical vision of simplified, transcendental existence. Mies had finally achieved a goal towards which he had been feeling his way for three decades."
It is currently owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Following many years of damage from flooding of the adjacent Fox River, the National Trust for Historic Preservation hired a multi-disciplinary team of Krueck+Sexton, Wiss, Janney, Elster Associates and Berglund Construction to evaluate the house and put together a restoration master plan and feasibility study assessing the state of the curtain wall and travertine terraces. The result is a multi-phase plan to restore the house to its original quality.
The Farnsworth House is currently undergoing restoration of two window frames to resolve steel corrosion issues. Glass has been removed from both faces of the southwest corner. To facilitate access to the openings and to protect the house, a structure has been erected.
The Trust will share the restoration process with their visitors in the hopes that it will help everyone understand the meticulous, detailed, minimal tolerance conditions Mies employed in the initial construction. His exacting standards are challenging to emulate.