This skeletal structure, the Farnsworth House, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is a non-native invasive in its simple riverside setting. And that would be just fine with modernist Mies. It is unforgivingly minimal in design and lovely in contrast to its context, although Mies would not care a wit about the relationship.
It’s difficult to imagine living comfortably in something akin to a fish tank, but it would be almost impossible to find an unnecessary element in its bare-bones presentation. The materials used in the interior, wood and travertine, add a simple beauty and warmth to a sketch of positive space, leaving a kind of negative space to be filled.
But that also works for the exterior to good effect. It is a death-defying dance between man and nature, but they manage to coexist so well – one forcing the other to recognize its best attributes. Despite the fact that the clever design of its floating is a result of practicality, in that the Fox River floods frequently, the proportions of the lift from the ground and the size of the terrace all interplay to create a theatrical result – a magic-carpet playhouse in the woods.
In comparison to Philip Johnson’s Glass House, there is no comparison. Farnsworth levitates whereas Glass sits clunkily, ham-fisted on the ground. If you are within striking distance of this isolated burg called Plano, the home of the McCormick Harvester in the heart of farm country, driving through fifty miles or so of rolling fields, the Farnsworth is a must-see diamond in the rough.