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Photo: Jon Miller, Hedrich Blessing, farnsworthhouse.org

 
 

 

 

       
 

Mies-Conception

 

...and the most beautiful house in the world!

 

 

 

The muddied muddled waters of the Midterm season.  Paul Krugman had his take on the state of affairs with his The Focus Hocus-Pocus Op-Ed in The New York Times last week.  Now James Kloppenberg’s Reading Obama is the book of the moment, (Kloppenberg sat down with Charlie Rose last night) and we’ve just added his volume to our reading list.  Time will make sense of these times.

 


Photo: LPCI, farnsworthhouse.org

 

And so, we decided to skirt the entire issue and talk about an entirely different sort of White House – Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, built in 1951, and which we sometimes think is the most beautiful house in the world.  Some ideal space where a certain classical yet asymmetric purity meets modernist poetry.  Built as a weekend residential home (Philip Johnson borrowed heavily from it for his Glass House, and wasn’t quite able to live up to its example, though he did manage to complete his house first), it follows on ideas that had been explored so successfully at Mies’s Pavilion in Barcelona in 1929 (the famous German entry at the Barcelona Exposition, a De Stijl-esque composition, asymmetrical and rectilinear, of glass, steel, green Tinian marble, onyx, and travertine with reflecting pools lined in black glass and a sculpture court.  A study in opacity and transparency with its heavy scarlet drapes and glass walls and the flowing open plan. It was one of the most beautiful modern buildings ever built - inside were a few exquisitely perfect objects - a couple of Barcelona chairs, half a dozen Barcelona stools and a couple of glass-topped tables.)

 


Photo: Jon Miller, Hedrich Blessing, farnsworthhouse.org

 

The Farnsworth House is impossibly beautiful for the contrasts it offers.  The cold purity of glass, steel and travertine stone set amidst the wildness of nature.  The asymmetric clarity of the geometry of its structure, a study in horizontal planes (terrace, floor, roof of house; the floor lifted away in case of flooding from the nearby river) and outside the chaos of trees and leaves and grass.  The detailing is meticulous, the materials sumptuous: travertine floors, primavera wood, rich shantung silk of curtains.  Also the expression of Mies's ideal of ‘beinahe nichts’ or almost nothing.  What Mies achieves is both the ideal and its realization: purity in a structural sense, the liquid flowing space of the open plan, and a transparency that is both material and the thing wanted.    

 

Visit: The Farnsworth House

 

Watch: The Charlie Rose interview with James Kloppenberg

 

Read: The New York Times article on James Kloppenberg's Reading Obama

 

Read: The Focus Hocus-Pocus, nytimes.com, Paul Krugman

 

Read: From the eCognoscente archives: The Barcelona Chair and Pavilion

 

Tags: architecture  politics  literature  design  museums  geometry  history  books   obama

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Photo: Jon Miller, Hedrich Blessing, farnsworthhouse.org

 

 

 

 

 

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