There It Begins
"Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins."
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 28 Jun 1959
The genius of Johnson was as a sibylline purveyor of great ideas.
The genius of Mies was his unique and resolute vision of a new world.
The Glass House, in spite of its moniker, is, when compared to the Farnsworth House, a brick. It sits, earthbound, heavy, black, ironically solid and dependent on an array of other elements and an expansive site to make such a livable place.
The Farnsworth House is, sui generis; an entire world in one building. It is like smoke, magic, elusive, both solid and vapor, and always in flux.
My tribute puts these two bricks together.
Philip Johnson’s Glass House and Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House established one of architecture’s great formal dialogues. Both were designed and built during the same period; the Glass House between 1945 and 1949 (in New Canaan, Connecticut), and the Farnsworth House between 1945 and 1951 (in Plano, Illinois). Both homes have been designated National Historic Landmarks and are now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Glass House was given to the trust by Johnson in 1986 and opened to the public in 2007 (with identity and visitors center designed by Biber Architects), and the Farnsworth House was saved at auction in 2003 and came under the management of the trust earlier this year.
Modern Views: A Project to Benefit the Farnsworth House and the Glass House was a new yearlong initiative to raise $1 million to help preserve the residences. The trust's Center for Modernism asked 100 artists, designers and architects to create works that continue the dialogue between the two iconic designs. Among the participants are Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Thom Mayne, Daniel Libeskind, David Adjaye, Tadao Ando, Richard Meier, Michael Graves, Cesar Pelli, Ken Smith, Vito Acconci, Maira Kalman, Robert Morris, Ed Ruscha, Yves Behar, Annie Leibovitz, Constantin Boym and James Biber.
The works exhibited in New York and Chicago culminating in an auction in each city. Proceeds from the auction will be used to restore the Brick House at the Glass House site and to repair damage to the Farnsworth House from a 2008 flood.
James Biber, who designed the visitor center for the Glass House, was inspired by the homes’ relationship to their environments: the Glass House is built of dark materials and is close to the earth, while the Farnsworth House is white and seems to float above ground, a world in itself. Biber’s drawing, called There It Begins, takes its title from a 1959 quote by Mies: “Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins.” The drawing brings the two “bricks”, or houses, together.