Farnsworth House: The Visitor Experience




Intermediary, Modulator, Lens




TITLE

Farnsworth House: The Visitor Experience


STUDENT  

Sean Miller
University of Nevada, Las Vegas



FACULTY SPONSOR  

Glenn Nowak
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

 
JURORS COMMENTS
 

This project is an extreme inversion of Mies’s concept for the Farnsworth House. The design dematerializes the architecture, is inward focused, and has a successful site plan. This captivating design would be terrific in all seasons.
 



DESCRIPTION The Farnsworth House has remained mostly unchanged in its physical appearance for more than 60 years, however the site around the house has taken on the character of its owners throughout its lifetime. The site condition is a reflection of time yet the building remains timeless, walled in by a grove of trees, a powerful river. The character of the building is cyclical in nature and no single day of the year is the same as the seasons change and the house becomes the frame for the occupants to view and enjoy nature throughout the year only to return again. Not only are the views and the character changing with the seasons, they change with the hour. The concept of the visitor center has the difficult task of preparing one to make the short journey to the front steps of the house. Guests are about to exit the fast pace of society and step into an environment void of the trappings of everyday life. The journey to the front porch of the house is as important as the house itself as the house was designed to blend in and disappear in the meadow and the journey begins with the visitor center. The personal relationship with nature that the house sets up can be understood through the facade of the visitor center. Through the use of mirrored reflections, the guest is immediately confronted with the imagery of everyday life. The visitors are confronted with the nature that surrounds them as they move around the building whether it be natural or un-natural. The reflection produced by the facade is a brief snapshot of that exact moment in time and, unlike the cyclical nature of the seasons, it will never be the same. The facade of the center allows you to be a part of this experience in the same way the glass box of Farnsworth allows you to experience the landscape. As you proceed through the center the south facade reflects the landscape as it was meant to be seen; natural on what used to be cultivated farm land, has now been reclaimed by the forest. To initiate order on the initial approach of the visitor center would give one the impression of a logical journey rather than discovery. The massing is simple and the plan is sophisticated. The facade strategy is to remind the viewer where they came from and where they have been. As they return from their journey they are presented once again with the natural world they are leaving behind as if the building is an invisible transport back to reality.



TITLE

Intermediary, Modulator, Lens


STUDENT   Adam Ballard
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona



FACULTY SPONSOR  

Sarah E. Lorenzen
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

 
JURORS COMMENTS
 

This project demonstrates a different way to address the problem with an abstract design that allows the mind the freedom to explore. This engaging design is representative of an innovative style and is one from a studio series, which the jurors would like to compliment.



DESCRIPTION The possible relocation of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House must meet sincere deliberation. Mies designed the house with two things in mind:  the epoch, and the site.  While one is already gone, to remove the other would force this house, in its essence an idea, outside of any recognition.  While we may now visit the Farnsworth House and imagine how it once was, we are still only imagining.  The visitors center is designed as an intermediary, a modulator, a lense between our lives and the new life lived by the house itself.

The project began with a study and interpretation of Mies’ first “Modern” house—the Villa Wolf—in an attempt to extract out the two ‘presents’:  the preserved present tense of the Farnsworth House and that of the contemporary world in which we live.  By giving them each a parallel history one can then relate the one built object to the other.

In formalizing the ideas, the Villa Wolf was first unfolded, or perhaps collapsed into a broken down and unwrapped axonometric drawing.  The pieces of this drawing were then refolded into a new whole.  The content was the same.  The form quite different.

We need organization.  We need to respect our context.  A box, 99’x99’x18’ was fit around our new form, and it was elevated.  This box was not empty.  It contained program.  It fit the form well, there was room to breathe.  But the box was split by the form, and it was eroded and disturbed.

We’re in the future.  The Farnsworth has flooded.  Replace the wood.  The Farnsworth is still there.  Concurrently, the Farnsworth is in the “corn field”.  It does not flood, but it no longer knows who it is, or why.

Back in our present, the two forms have developed a dialogue.  They begin to read as one, and their desires merge.  This is to be a visitors’ center for a place and a time.  We must speak the same language so we can learn.  And so the forms interact.  One pushes while the other pulls.  The grids and their resultants intertwine, and new possibilities become apparent.  Elements from the Farnsworth House come to mediate, to translate.  A column grid of 22’ is inlaid.  Windows enter the scene as a further merger to develop relations within the structure and, of course to the outside.  The Farnsworth at 450; the Fox River seen from all sides.

We’re in the past.  Mies lays out his composition, and he says this is perfect.