The Farnsworth House – Plano, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

The Farnsworth House

Plano, Illinois

Tour the luxe "glass cage" that inspired and unnerved the architecture world upon its debut. 


Located in Plano, Illinois, the Farnsworth House is considered a triumphant example of the International Style of architecture during the modernist period.

Completed by Mies van der Rohe in 1951, the Farnsworth House was one of the rare instances of being recognized even before it had been built. Exhibited first as a model in 1947 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, critics were stunned by the house’s ability to convey the “purity of a cage” through its sleek design. The architectural community was simultaneously inspired and discomforted by such a revolutionary take on placing man in the world by way of design.

By pairing a steel skeleton, slab floors, and seamless glass walls, Mies was able to create a nearly indistinguishable, yet still insurmountable boundary between the house’s inhabitants and the lush natural world of the Fox River just outside. Unfortunately, the realities of living inside a glass home made the Farnsworth House slightly more uncomfortable than modern clients would likely tolerate; ample cross-ventilation has a hard time keeping pace with the lack of air conditioning, and the radiant heating manages to make a dent but not quite mitigate the freezing northern Midwest winters biting at the glass panes. 

Regardless of its practicality, Mies’ creation has come to be seen as a Platonic ideal of sorts, as it balances a quiet, neutral structure in perfect contrast with the unkempt, ever fluctuating movement of the land on which the house sits.

Know Before You Go

The Farnsworth House is located approximately 58 miles southwest of Chicago in Plano, Illinois along the Fox River.

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June 11, 2015

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