I’ve now seen two reports of “rumors” of an upcoming movie about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth House in Illinois, so just a heads up, modernist architecture enthusiasts. We may see the Hollywood version of what was a stormy relationship between architect and client that still produced a masterpiece.
In addition to starring the iconic glass-box house, Jeff Bridges reportedly signed on to play the famous architect and Maggie Gyllenhaal will take on the role of the Chicago doctor who commissioned the house in Plano, Illinois, in 1945. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the architect-client relationship began as a friendly one—and allegedly became a romance—before exploding when his bill far exceeded the original estimate. Their fight over construction costs led to a court battle in 1952 that (spoiler alert!) Van der Rohe won.
As for the Farnsworth house, it’s considered an important example of the international style and the only noteworthy house Van der Rohe completed in the U.S. The house, originally commissioned as a country retreat along the Fox River for the good doctor, is a 1,500-square-foot “box” that features horizontal planes supported by steel columns. Floor-to-ceiling glass forms the external walls, providing panoramic views of the wooded landscape and allowing visitors to see straight through from one side to the other. A floating terrace is the only thing that interrupts the purity of the form.
The house, roughly two hours southwest of Chicago, was a private residence until Landmarks Illinois and the National Trust for Historic Preservation purchased it in 2003. It is now owned and managed by the trust, and the site is open to the public (tour and ticket information here).
I can just imagine Jeff Bridges storming across that terrace, while Maggie Gyllenhaal calls his bluff. Oh, also the house, in all its sublime transparency. Let’s hope we get the chance to see them all soon.
by Chris Lee
photo courtesy farnsworthhouse.org