The fox river

The magnificent fiasco of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House

John Ruskin believed the most beautiful things are also the most useless, citing lilies and peacocks. Had he known about the Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, a rural community 50 miles west of Chicago, he might have suggested it too. Except this modernist building of 1951 is an evolved expression of the emerging industrial culture Ruskin so despised. But it is several other things too, notably an example of fraught transactions between architect and client. The Farnsworth test case became a trial whose transcript ran to 3,800 pages. Of all relationships, except that between a firing squad and its target, the architect-client example is the one most predictably headed for