Flooding the Farnsworth
Thursday, August 30, 2007
From the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, via Edward Lifson a.k.a. The New Modernist, some photos of Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House under threat by floodwaters from the Fox River, this after visits from Brad Pitt and one other nominal celebrity.
Preservationists and Modernists certainly must be agonizing over these photos.
Iconoclasts, on the other hand, must be praying for yet more torrential downpours.
One regular Pruned reader, an avowed anti-Modernist, sarcastically asked us if this is what “they” meant by “architecture engaging with the landscape”? He was wondering, or so we assume, whether architectural historians, critics and students--in overpraising the house (and Philip Johnson's Glass House and Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water) for harmoniously intertwining with nature--are simply full of shit, as what they think of as a harmonious engagement (or the idea of those high priests of Modernism “designing with nature”, or at the very least acknowledging context beyond formal and material concerns) is an illusion.
“Nature has been subjugated. There, it is expected to be static, as structured as the building. That or it must act within a prescribed set of parameters. Abnormal hydrology is frowned upon, for instance. So harmonyschmarmony. But thankfully, when things like this happen, architecture is laughingly displayed as impotent.” Too harsh.
In its defense, however, the house does look beautiful and quite striking in its state of quasi-failure.
Meanwhile, we are eagerly waiting to hear, hopefully accompanying other reports of Brad Pitt's generous donation to architecture, that proposals are underway for a levee system to protect the Farnsworth, millions of dollars worth of flood protection that most assuredly will fail in order to further sustain the illusion. We're waiting, because it will be hilarious to hear them.
POSTSCRIPT #1: The Farnsworth Flood of 2008: Blair Kamin, architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, reports here, here and here — the comments are worth a read. Meanwhile, we wonder how many postscripts bearing this sort of news will we add in the future.