Flooding threatens Mies van der Rohe’s minimalist Farnsworth House in Illinois

Flooding threatens Mies van der Rohe’s minimalist Farnsworth House in Illinois

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Flooding from heavy rain is once again threatening Mies van der Rohe’s iconic 1951 Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, its executive director reports.

Floodwaters from the Fox River inundated the glass and steel house’s deteriorating lower terrace on Monday and rose to within a foot of the house’s stilt-hoisted single-floor living area, says Scott Mehaffey, the executive director. The incursion arrived at a time when swaths of the Midwestern US had been ravaged by pounding rain.

By Wednesday, the waters had receded from the house. But Mehaffey says he is apprehensive about predictions for a more prolonged deluge beginning on Sunday that could last a week and cause water to flow into the living level.

Visiting the house in an inflatable raft with a fire and rescue squad on Monday, the executive director and others rolled up the rugs, placed furniture atop milk crates and pulled curtains up away from the floor. “Luckily, all the Mies van der Rohe furniture is in storage,” he says. “What’s in the house now are facsimiles of Edith Farnsworth’s [Scandinavian and Italian Modern] furniture,” in line with the site’s 2020-21 focus on the client who commissioned the house. When the house’s second owner, Peter Palumbo, restored the house in 1970-72, he and Dirk Lohan, Mies’s grandson, furnished the house with pieces of the architect’s design, Mehaffey explains.

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