The weekend house for Dr. Edith Farnsworth represented by this rendering is one of Mies van der Rohe’s clearest expressions of his ideas about the relationship between architecture and landscape. The transcendent quality he achieved in his architecture is epitomized by the reductive purity and structural clarity of this steel and glass structure. The space of the house is defined by its roof and floor planes, the whole supported by eight steel columns. All the steel elements are painted white. The architect claimed: “We should strive to bring Nature, houses, and people together into a higher unity. When one looks at Nature through the glass walls of the Farnsworth House it takes on a deeper significance than when one stands outside. More of Nature is thus expressed— it becomes part of a greater whole.”
Set in a meadow overlooking the Fox River, which is prone to flooding, the house is elevated above the ground. Aesthetically, this contributes to the effect of weightlessness, reinforced by the cantilevered roof and floor planes and by the asymmetrical placement of the two travertine terraces that imply an infinite extension into space. Mies van der Rohe’s transformation of a classical pavilion into a completely modern, abstract idiom—based on a carefully studied sense of proportion and structural logic—is a sublime testament to his apocryphal statement: “less is more.”
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 217.