Farnsworth House: when modernism calls, take the bus to Plano

Living in Chicago, I am fortunate to see the architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe almost every day.  I love to slip around behind the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments and look out to the sun shining off the waves of Lake Michigan through the glass plaza.  HOB gets off the train early most mornings just for the pleasure of walking though Chicago’s Federal Plaza to admire the clean perfection of Mies’ building complex set off by the jaunty Flamingo sculpture by Alexander Calder.  Given our mutual love of Mies, a pilgrimage to Mies’ Farnsworth House  in Plano, IL was obviously overdue, though we had one major complication: we don’t own a car and don’t drive.  Happily the Chicago Architecture Foundation has a bus tour, so off we went in quest of International Style glory.

I highly recommend the CAF tour, which includes Mies sights in Chicago, with a stop for lunch.  (A pilgrimage without a picnic–unusual for us!)  During the 55 mile bus trip, our docent provide us with an helpful overview of Mies’ work and then we watched an ancient relic of a wobbly video tape about the history of the Farnsworth house.  We were travelling with a group of architecture students from Texas and when we asked them if they liked Chicago they said they did, but they were amazed and exhausted by all the walking we do here.  “Like, you Chicago people, you just walk all the time, like everywhere?!?!”   And we then we really blew there minds by telling them we don’t own a car.  We also spoke with some cool Germans, who had the impeccable good judgement to spend their time in Illinois visiting our finest architecture.  (I really hope that when HOB and I are travelling we meet people who go home and write in their blog “Met these cool Americans with impecible taste in architecture today….)


A short walk though the woods, and…oooh, is it a sculpture or a building?  Is it floating?  (At the time the Farnsworth House was built, 1945-51, the area was much more rural.  Now you can hear the sound of a nearby highway.)


HOB says “a masterpiece of the International Style!”.


So simple, like a domestic temple, or maybe a mosque, since we took off our shoes to enter.  Call to prayer, call to modernism.


The Farnsworth House falls in the category of “buildings I love but I’d never want to live in”.


Oh look– a tiny I-beam.  SQUEE!!!!!!!!!!



Rear view.



How we got to Plano: bus tour from Chicago.

Where we slept: at home.  Price: mortgage, assessments and utilities.  Recommended: highly.




  1. Reblogged this on Catholic Glasses and commented:
    Very pretty!


  2. My husband loves this house, too. It’s just too much — too much minimalism! — for me, but I can appreciate the beauty in the essentials and the simplicity. Does anyone live in the house?


    1. No one lives there any more–it’s a museum of sorts.


  3. Did you see the great Mies building in Berlin (with the modern art?)


  4. Reblogged this on ledossiernoir's Blog and commented:
    One of my favorite jewels of American modernsim. I’m also obsessed with Philip Johnson’s Glass House.


    1. Oooh, I ‘d love to see Philip Johnson’s glass house!


      1. I believe it’s open during the summers for public viewing. I’m sure it’s beautiful in the fall with foliage turning on the property. I’ve always wanted to live in a house in that style on a heavily wooded property.


  5. Reblogged this on Bauhaus Movement and commented:
    Less is more …


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