21009 Farnsworth House™

  • Product no longer in production


  • Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
  • Classification: House. one-room weekend retreat.   
  • Style: Modern
  • Details: 140m2 (1,585 square ft.)
  • Location: Plano, Kendall County, Illinois, USA 
  • Materials: Steel and Glass 
  • Year: 1945 - 1951


Farnsworth House was designed and constructed between 1945 and 1951 as a one-room weekend retreat, located in a once-rural setting, 89 km(55 miles) southwest of Chicago on a 240,000 m2(60-acre) estate adjoining the Fox River, in the city of Plano, Illinois.

Mies van der Rohe conceived Farnsworth House as a structure that was both independent of and intertwined with the nature around it. The simple elongated cubic form of the house runs parallel to the flow of the river and is placed in the cooling shadow of a large and majestic black maple tree.

The house is elevated 1.60 m (5.3 ft.) above the flood plain by eight steel columns, which are attached to the sides of the floor and ceiling slabs. The end of the slabs extend beyond the column supports, creating cantilevers. The house seems to float weightlessly above the ground it occupies.

The interior appears to be one large room filled with freestanding elements. The space flows around two wood blocks called “cores”. The fireplace-kitchen core appears almost as a separate house nestling within the larger glass house. The materials used are quietly luxurious – travertine floors, primavera paneling and silk curtains – and the detailing minimal and meticulous.


The steel and glass house was commissioned as a weekend retreat by Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a prominent Chicago medical specialist. Farnsworth was highly intelligent, articulate, and intent on building a very special work of modern architecture. Her instructions to Mies van der Rohe were to design the house as if it were for himself.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (March 27, 1886 – August 17, 1969) has long been considered one of the most important architects of the 20th century. In Europe, before World War II, Mies emerged as one of the most innovative leaders of the Modern Movement. After emigrating to the United States in 1938, he transformed the architectonic expression of the steel frame in American architecture and left a nearly unmatched legacy of teaching and building.

On its completion, Farnsworth House received accolades in the architectural press. Unfortunately Mies and Edith Farnsworth had a falling out over the costs, which had almost doubled, and the bitter dispute was only resolved after a very public court case. Edith Farnsworth continued to use her weekend retreat for almost 20 years. The timeless quality of this house is still regarded with reverent fascination by new generations of architects and designers around the world.

Text credits: National Trust for Historic Preservation®
Photo credits: Farnsworth House™, a National Trust Historic Site
Chicago History Museum
Hans Peter Schaefer
John Hill, Tigerhill Studio