Giving Farnsworth House a Much-Needed Lift
Architecture & Interiors
Spending $3 million to protect a house from flooding may sound like a mad plan, but when the house in question is the sublime Farnsworth, the fact that there’s a plan at all comes as a relief to historians. Mies van der Rohe’s low-lying Modernist masterwork, completed in 1951 and built along the Fox River in Plano, Illinois, has been so thoroughly defiled by flooding (woefully documented, below, after a 2008 flood) that a costly measure to mitigate further damage, revealed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns Farnsworth House, has been greeted with unexpected enthusiasm.
The plan, proposed by structural engineer Robert Silman, employs a hydraulic lift system to elevate the house, should it come under threat of flooding, though the intricacies of how this will be accomplished without besmirching the integrity of Mies’ design have yet to be worked out. Still, a potential donor has expressed interest in funding the project, raising the possibility that a flood-averting measure could be put in place as early as 2016. Silman cautions that “the donor’s decision will be based on public acceptance,” but the Plano public, we suspect, will surely accept a plan to save their most famous house from impending doom.