Few days ago I started to write about The Genesis of The Mid Century Modern American House. Today I will complete the story writing about two of the most significative contributions to the modernist movement and their influence on the succeeding generation of mid century modern architects.
The van der Rohe Farnsworth House and Johnson’s Glass House, in fact, included the most known features of the mid century modern American house: horizontality and spaces flowing into each others. With the Farnsworth House bringing to a domestic level what van der Rohe already did with the Illinois Institute of Technology.
(the Illinois Institute of Technology)
The Farnsworth House was without precedents, it is a rectangular glass box with a floating roof slab and a floor slab 1,5m suspended from the ground, both supported by eight steel columns.
The patio is on the west side and is as big as the whole house. The one space plan interior is only divided by the kitchen-bathroom-fireplace core and a set of closets that screen the sleeping area. The perfect integration of the house with the landscape, its lightness and sense of open made the Farnsworth house unique in the mid century modern as in the contemporary architectural scene.
Even though the Philip Johnson’s Glass House was built before the completion of the Farnsworth House, is clearly inspired by it.
Sitting on a low brick podium, the house plan consists of a single space that was symmetrically contained by columns at the corners, centers and entrances of each of its sides. The interior space is asymmetrically spearated by free-standing cabinets and a cylindrical bathroom core.
Van der Rohe despised the Johnson’s Glass house not only because he considered it a copy of the Farnsworth house but also because -according to him- it was poorly finished off and detailed.
Van der Rohe and Johnson argued about the Glass house -as about other architectural matters- and their rift never healed.
However, as examples of perfect dwellings and affordable building methods both the Farnsworth and Johnson house failed. They allowed only poor climatic control, were expensive to build, and designed as pieces of art; not really attractive for the majority of people.
Despite this, both houses were fundamental to determine the architectural idiom of the modern house during 50s and 60s. Together with the Case Study Houses Program, van der Rohe and Johnson’s works contributed to make the mid century modern American architecture internationally known and extraordinary successful.
Check the video below if you want to know the whole story of the van der Rohe Farnsworth House!
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