Saturday, August 29, 2009

Farnsworth House

This is the famous Farnsworth House, designed by Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1951. At the time it was very controversial, and House Beautiful called it a communist attempt to supplant traditional American values. Now it's a National Historic Landmark (which is actually difficult to achieve, unlike getting listed on the National Register of Historic Places), and I suppose this represents progress of a sort.

My objections to it are 1) it's ugly, and 2) it's completely unlivable. The original owner was a sort of half-mad ascetic who enjoyed the rigor of living in a glass cube. When British magnate Peter Palumbo bought it, mostly as a place to show off his sculpture collection, he made major changes (including curtains) but still found it impossibly uncomfortable to stay in this masterpiece for more than a day or two. And this is the thing that drives me crazy about architects. A house is a place to live, not a sculpture or a statement about artistic values. So as far as I am concerned, a house that nobody wants to live in is a failure, no matter how cool it looks.

And, as we have recently discovered, the house isn't sited very well.

The National Trust is trying to raise money for some kind of flood control, but I have a better idea: let it float away.

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