Designed and built from 1946 to 1951, Farnsworth House is considered an icon of international style architecture in America. The steel and glass house was commissioned by Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a prominent Chicago-based kidney specialist, as a place where she could enjoy nature and engage in her hobby, translating poetry. Mies created for her a 1,400 square foot house that is widely recognized as a masterpiece of modernist architecture. The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006, after joining the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
The house’s structure consists of precast concrete floor and roof slabs supported by a carefully crafted steel skeleton frame of beams, girders and columns. The facade is made of single panes of glass spanning from floor to ceiling, fastened to the structural system by steel mullions. The building is heated by radiant coils set in the concrete floor; natural cross ventilation and the shade of nearby trees provide minimal cooling. Though it proved difficult to live in, the Farnsworth House’s elegant simplicity is still regarded as an important accomplishment of the international style.
The interior appears to be a single open space, free of interior supports, ebbing and flowing around two wood-clad boxes; one a wardrobe closet and the other a fireplace core enclosing toilets and mechanical equipment. The house is essentially one large room with a freestanding wardrobe and a central fireplace core that provide subtle differentiation between open spaces. Very private areas such as toilets, and mechanical rooms are enclosed within the core.