Glass Is More: The Farnsworth House, Plano, Illinois

One day last year while driving through Plano, Illinois on my way to Silver Springs State Park in Yorkville, Illinois for a day hike, I came upon a chance encounter with a sign that read ‘FARNSWORTH HOUSE’.  Curious as to why there was a point of interest sign for the Farnsworth House, when I returned home from my hike that day, I began looking up information on the Farnsworth House and I came across some fascinating information about the history of this house designed by Mies Van Der Rohe in 1945, widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modernist architecture, and built for Dr. Edith Farnsworth  as a weekend retreat that was completed in 1951.

A little side note: I was familiar with Mies, since he was the designer of the Bruno chair.  When I worked at Turner Broadcasting and the office moved from the Tribune Tower into the their new space at Two Prudential Plaza,  the company had also purchased from the previous tenant (Alexander and Alexander), all the furniture in the space that was in ‘like new’ condition with lots of custom pieces made for the space at a bargain price.  The Mies Bruno chair was used throughout the entire space of the 27th floor and that was my first introduction to Mies.

Fast forward a year later from that chance encounter with that sign,  I never got around to visiting the Farnsworth House last year.  However, I never forgot how much I wanted to take the tour and photograph the house.  So almost a month ago I had purchased a ticket to finally visit the house this past Saturday, October 7.

You never know how the weather will turn out to be when purchasing tickets 3 weeks in advance when attending any event out of doors and coincidently it called for a 90% chance of rain on the day I picked to go. Rain or shine, the guided tour must go on, so I packed up the rain gear and headed out to Plano.

The story behind the design, the meticulous details and construction of this mostly steel and glass house, the relationship between Mies and Dr. Farnsworth, the land it was built on and it’s future is quite a story to tell.  I won’t make this post too long by giving you all the details here, but, I highly recommend reading up on the Farnsworth House and taking a guided tour. It truly is quite interesting and amazing to see.

The house is now a public museum operated by the National Trust of Historic Preservation and can be visited throughout the year. The cost of admission for a guided tour is $20 per person + $10 if you want to take photographs of the interior of the house. Part of the cost of the ticket price goes towards the preservation fund for the house.  A 90 minute guided tour is conducted 3-4 times per day.  It is highly suggested to purchase tickets in advance as most time slots do sell out and are often booked by schools for groups of students studying architecture. Depending on what time of day or time of year you visit the Farnsworth House, the seasons act as a beautiful ever changing backdrop for it.

I hope you enjoy looking through photographs of the Farnsworth House.

The house is an embodiment of Mies’ mature vision of modern architecture for the new technological age: a single unencumbered space within a minimal “skin and bones” framework, a clearly understandable arrangement of architectural parts.[19] His ideas are stated with clarity and simplicity, using materials that are configured to express their own individual character.

These photos were taken at the Farnsworth House Visitor’s Center. The guest book is signed by people from all over the the World.   Spain…Brazil…Japan…Chile…Mexico and all corners of the United States.



A chance blurry photograph of our tour guide as we hiked a 1/2 mile up to the house, turned out to look like a Monet painting. 🙂


Fox River4W4A4464-2












The decks were made in a way that they would appear to be floating.



Primavera Wood from Central America also referred to as White Mahogany comprise all the wood elements in the house.  Damage on the door panel was sustained during one of the times the house was flooded by the Fox River.


Mies designed round tubular and flat bar Bruno chairs.



Mies original Barcelona chaise lounge and chair






The only lighting created by Mies himself for the Farnsworth House is this task light that sits above the massive expanse of the all one piece 17 foot long piece of stainless steel first of its kind designed by Elkay.


Original Cedric Hartman Lamp4W4A4378


Mies designed Barcelona furniture and what a view!



Dining table and chairs designed by Mies. The 1927 MR Chairs represent some of the his earliest steel furniture. The material choice was inspired by fellow Bauhaus master Marcel Breuer, while the forms are thought to be modern derivatives of 19th century iron rocking chairs.











The exhibition space next to the Farnsworth House Visitors’ Center in Plano, Illinois, was designed and built by IIT Architecture students under the aegis of Prof. Flury’s Design-Build studio. Humorously dubbed “Barnsworth” in a punning reference to the project’s storage function and the rural vernacular buildings that inspired its design, it won a Special Recognition award in the 500 Square Feet and Under category at the American Institute of Architects Chicago chapter Small Projects ceremony on May 9, 2014.

The project brief was to create a small exhibition space on the grounds of Mies van der Rohe’s Edith Farnsworth House for a wardrobe originally designed by Mies for Ms. Farnsworth.

With flooding a recurring problem at Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, a plan was put in place to relocate the furniture from the house to protect it from floodwaters. Edith Farnsworth’s wardrobe, however, was too large to be removed from the house in case of future flooding. With the existing visitor center unable to accommodate the wardrobe, a need existed for additional exhibition space. This project was presented to fourth and fifth year architecture students who designed an adaptable exhibition space that solved Farnsworth’s need to display the wardrobe while being able to host events, lectures, and exhibitions. The team designed in the local vernacular, similar to the farm buildings scattered across the nearby landscape and the result was a contemporary, round barn. The walls are free from openings, providing extensive display space, while a simple and elegant lantern sits atop the space to allow the penetration of natural light. The costs of the project were completely fundraised by the students through donations and the help of local businesses. Much creativity went into the recycling and conservation of material, including using all of the lumber scraps from the project to create an end-grain floor.

The Barnsworth project was also nominated for a 2014 Architizer A+ Award in the Student Design/Build category.


4 thoughts on “Glass Is More: The Farnsworth House, Plano, Illinois

  1. Such beautiful photos. I especially love the one of Fox River, the chance blurry photo–it does look like a Monet!–and all the photos of the house. You have a nice sense of composition.

    Liked by 1 person

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