Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

-IL-Chicago Area

Farnsworth House (1951)

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Architect

14520 River Road, Plano IL 60545

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Visited July 5, 2013

This is a great opportunity to experience a preeminent example of the International Style embodied in a small weekend house hovering over a vast green lawn on the banks of the Fox River. It is said that Mies personally designed the house after meeting Dr. Edith Farnsworth at a dinner party ( and obviously made a good impression…).

The pavilion is raised above the Fox River flood plain supported by 8 steel columns. The perimeter walls are composed of large floor to ceiling panes of plate glass. There is a core area which houses two bathrooms, the utility room, kitchen cabinets and  fireplace. This core area does not engage the perimeter glass walls at all, and in fact does not even go to the ceiling except a small portion which is stepped back from the core walls. The core is clad in beautiful Primavera wood veneer, a rare wood from Central America, said to be Mies favorite. All of the utility connections and the roof drain all go through the floor plane to the ground in a relatively small cylinder inconspicuously placed under the utility room.

From the lawn, wide marble steps lead up from the lawn to an elevated terrace offset to the west of the pavilion. From this terrace, the marble steps continue to lead you up to the porch at the floor level of the house. The entrance is a pair of very narrow aluminum framed full height glass doors, slightly offset from the grid to the living room side of the house to direct visitors in that direction upon entry.

It is really a one-room house ( not including the bathrooms and utility space), with spaces arranged around this core. They all have a broad view of the river and the lawn through the vast windows. It is a spectacular experience, if only I was there without the other people on the tour, living in the house for the weekend – oh well, I can dream…and to think I could have bought this one-room house 10 years ago for only $7.5 million…

Here is a link to the floor plan

Click here for the Farnsworth House Website

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Ford House (1949)

Bruce Goff Architect

404 S. Edgelawn Avenue, Aurora IL

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Visited July 5, 2013

Bruce Goff designed this house using unusual materials and creative uses of common materials. This house’s structural system is created by standard quonset hut ribs forming the dome shape. The exterior wall behind the ribs is constructed of coal blocks with glass cullers, a waste product from glass furnaces. The house is on a full city block, with much of the property left in a natural state.

Albert Ford was a gas company executive, and his wife Ruth Van Sickle Ford was the Director of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

The Ford’s received many comments during the construction of their unique house. Many neighbors in the upscale neighborhood of traditional homes were not kind in their comments, calling the new house a “Big Apple”, “Birdcage” and the less creative “Dome”. The Ford’s added a quote to the construction sign which let the neighbors know how they felt….”We don’t like your house either”. See a photo from Life magazine in 1951 showing the sign:  Construction Sign Link

I have taken a photo from the same view as the sign photo in Life magazine, followed by the next door neighbor’s white traditional house at the end of my slideshow.


BP Bridge (2004)

Frank Gehry, Architect

Millenium Park, Chicago

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From the Archive

The BP Bridge in Millenium Park is a meandering path which must be experienced in person to appreciate. Completed in 2004, the bridge is just one design of note in the park, but was one of the most unexpected surprises. The 925 foot long serpentine stainless steel sculpture spans Columbus Drive connecting Daley Bicentennial Plaza with the Great Lawn and Lurie Garden in Millenium Park. While in Millenium Park do not miss the Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, Lurie Garden, and Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavillion.