Upon my first visit to the Farnsworth House website, I was drawn to the home's simple beauty. I thought that maybe there was something to this modernist style. I had to run over there to see first hand. However, the structure is closed to the public in the off season so I headed over the Elmhurst Art Museum in Elmhusrt, IL where they have another Mies van der Rohe house. The McCormick House is actually part of the museum structure itself and contains offices for the staff. Sadly, I was expecting to see something that just wasn't there. It wasn't less is more. It was nothing is nothing. In theory it sounds great, but in practice it falls flat. Note: I do understand that one could argue this wasn't a true experience of a modernist house in it's original environs. Until this spring when the Farnsworth House opens again, it's all I have to go on. At that time I will append this post.
Louis Sullivan pushed form following function. Frank Lloyd Wright urged that form and function should be one. I've seen these ideals at work and they stir emotion in me. Though I longed to feel empowered by standing in a Mies van der Rohe structure, it honestly just felt empty. From afar it was a work of art, but as a true home it seemed to miss the mark.
The original owner of the Farnsworth House, Dr. Edith Farnsworth, expressed somewhat similar feelings when she tried to sue Mies in court. She claimed that the home was uninhabitable and even sought a national platform to denounce him and his work. Wouldn't you know, FLLW was right there using the occasion to point out the flaws of the modernist style.
Photo credit: Jon Miller, Hedrich Blessing