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Sex and Real Estate, Reconsidered: What Was the True Story Behind Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House?

Unidentified woman, perhaps Edith Farnsworth, at Farnsworth House. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.
Unidentified woman, perhaps Edith Farnsworth, at Farnsworth House. Undated. [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.

In 1951, Mies van der Rohe completed a house in Plano, Illinois that was the epitome of his modernist ideals; with a steel structure surrounded entirely by glass walls the building perfectly connected the user with its idyllic natural setting, and it was - and is - venerated as a masterwork. A lesser-known story about the work is how its owner Dr Edith Farnsworth attempted to sue her architect, in a story of bitterness and unrequited love - but even less well-known, argues Nora Wendl, is the story of what really happened. In this excerpt from her essay "Uncompromising Reasons for Going West: A Story of Sex and Real Estate, Reconsidered," published in Thresholds issue 43: "Scandalous," Wendl examines the overblown and dubious assertions made about Farnsworth's intentions, finding that the truth may be much more simple: perhaps the Farnsworth House is just not a pleasant place to live.

“I have decided to speak up.”

Such is the threshold between a private affair and a public scandal: one person speaks. These are also the opening lines to “The Threat to the Next America,” which appears in the April 1953 issue of House Beautiful. Penned by editor Elizabeth Gordon, the article describes an unnamed, but “highly intelligent, now disillusioned, woman who spent more than $70,000 building a 1-room house that is nothing but a glass cage on stilts.”[1] Gordon warns readers of a design movement sweeping the nation:

Something is rotten in the state of design—and it is spoiling some of our best efforts in modern living. After watching it for several years, after meeting it with silence, House Beautiful has decided to speak out and appeal to your common sense, because it is common sense that is mostly under attack. Two ways of life stretch before us. One leads to the richness of variety, to comfort and beauty. The other, the one we want fully to expose to you, retreats to poverty and unlivability. Worst of all, it contains the threat of cultural dictatorship.[2]

Farnsworth House, south façade and terrace. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, interior. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, looking northwest from the interior of screened-in porch, furnished by Farnsworth. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, exterior, view of south façade and east end of terrace with Farnsworth’s sculptures. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.

Michael Graves on Discovering Architecture, the Rewards of Practice and the Most Important Element of Design

When he passed away in March, Michael Graves left a design legacy stretching back 50 years and encompassing some of the most dramatic changes in architecture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In this interview, conducted in 2012 for her new e-book "Celebrity Designers: 50 Interviews on Design, Architecture, and Life," Maria Spassov quizzes Graves on his career, from the first moment he decided to be an architect to what he believes to be his greatest achievement.

When did you first discover your love of architecture?

As a young boy, the thing I could do best was draw. My mother was very nervous that I would try to become a fine artist. She knew it would be difficult to make a living as an artist. Therefore, she encouraged me to find a career path that incorporated drawing, and she suggested engineering or architecture. I asked her what an engineer did, and after she told me, I decided I would be an architect, because I knew I didn’t want to do engineering. I was probably eight years old.

Strook Creates Colorful Street Murals with Recycled Wood

Discarded planks, doors, floorboards and furniture become colorful geometric faces in Stefaan De Croock’s street murals in Belgium. De Croock (also known as Strook), preserves the color and texture of the scavenged wooden pieces, cutting them into geometric shapes and piecing them together to form colossal faces. 

"The whole process of making such a recycled artwork is really interesting; the search for wood, cutting and making the pieces, placing and building it,” Strook said. “I really like working with the old patina of discarded wood. It’s like a footprint of time; every piece has it own story and comes together in a new composition and forms a new story.”

View photos and learn more about two of his recent projects – Elsewhere and Wood & paint – after the break.

Elsewhere. Image © www.strook.eu Wood & Paint. Image © www.strook.eu Wood & Paint. Image © www.strook.eu Wood & Paint. Image © www.strook.eu

Paris Approves Plans to Build Herzog & de Meuron's "Triangle Tower"

Paris has approved its first tower in over 40 years; the city council has agreed to move forward with Herzog & de Meuron's 180-meter-tall "Triangle Tower" - or "Tour Triangle" - after initially rejecting the proposal last year. The controversial plans have been the center of an intense debate since its unveiling in 2008 on whether or not Paris should preserve its 19-century skyline. 

As Gizmodo reports, the Swiss architects sold the tower to the city by claiming its glass facade will "disappear" into the skyline.

“Almost everything the architects say has one message: This building is invisible,” as Foreign Policy pointed out last year. “As if to reinforce this strange duality, the renderings omit Paris’s one true existing skyscraper: the wildly unpopular Tour Montparnasse, built in 1973.”

Why Google Makes Independent Mapmakers as Important as Ever

For most of history, mapmaking has been an incredibly specialized pursuit, the domain of either intrepid explorers or highly skilled cartographers, and the resulting maps were some of society's most important repositories of information. In the 21st century, internet-age services such as Google and Wikipedia have made this system largely obsolete - but that doesn't necessarily mean that mapmaking is dead. In this article from Architecture Boston's Summer 2015 issue, originally titled "Redrawing the Map," William Rankin argues that our age of information has instead sparked a new age of cartography; one that is different, but just as important as what came before.

Given the proliferation of GPS devices and interactive mapping online, it’s easy to declare the traditional map obsolete. Intuitive turn-by-turn directions have replaced road atlases, Google has upgraded the static map with everything from real-time traffic to restaurant reviews, and Wikipedia has taken the place of the hefty geography textbook. Is there any hope for a cartophile? Will the stand-alone map, lovingly produced and custom designed, be only a niche product for rich collectors and Luddites?

Bjarke Ingels: "Denmark Has Become an Entire Country Made Out of LEGO®"

"In a matter of speaking, Denmark has become an entire country made out of LEGO®," says Bjarke Ingels. Speaking of the importance of prefab in Denmark and how LEGO® inspired his first BIG project - the "LEGO® Towers," which ultimately landed him a commission to design the LEGO® House - Bjarke Ingels discusses his favorite childhood toy and how it has helped him become a better architect.

The clip is part of the documentary, A LEGO Brickumentary which will hit theaters July 31. 

How the Architectural League's "Emerging Voices" Award Predicted 30 Years of Architectural Development

Tarlo House, Sagaponack, NY, 1979 by Tod Williams Associates (EV 1982). Image © Norman McGrath. Courtesy Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
Tarlo House, Sagaponack, NY, 1979 by Tod Williams Associates (EV 1982). Image © Norman McGrath. Courtesy Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

For over 30 years, the Emerging Voices prize given by the Architectural League of New York has offered the architecture world a glimpse into the future, showcasing radical ideas from architects at a crucial stage in their career development. In this excerpt, the opening to her essay "Idea: Claiming Territories" in the newly-released book "Thirty Years of Emerging Voices: Idea, Form, Resonance," Ashley Schafer discusses how the prize has acted as a litmus test for architectural culture, with laureates often presaging trends and sometimes even singular projects years or decades before they occurred in the profession at large.

Lasater Ranch, Hebbronville, TX, 1986 by Lake | Flato Architects (EV 1992). Image © Lake | Flato Architects Stair, Sand Point Arts and Cultural Exchange, Seattle, WA, 2003 by Lead Pencil Studio (EV 2006). Image © Lead Pencil Studio Rubadoux Studio, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1989 by Brian MacKay-Lyons Architecture Urban Design (EV 2000). Image © Brian MacKay-Lyons Architecture Urban Design. Photo James Steeves Bridge of Houses, New York, NY, proposal, 1979 by Steven Holl (EV 1982). Image © Steven Holl Architects

Video: selgascano, Sou Fujimoto and Smiljan Radic on the 15 Year History of the Serpentine Pavilion

A prelude to Serpentine Park Nights, selgascano, Sou Fujimoto and Smiljan Radic sat down with Serpentine Directors Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist to discuss the concepts behind the design of the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion and the history of the commission. The conversation, moderated by Sarah Ichioka, marks the 15th anniversary of the Serpentine Pavilion

How Chile's Bahá'í Temple Uses High Technology to Create a Spiritual Space

Now nearing completion just outside SantiagoHariri Pontarini Architects' Bahá'í Temple of South America is currently one of the most significant religious construction projects in the world. In this article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Sacred Structure," Guy Horton relates how - despite being in progress for almost a decade already - the design has changed remarkably little from the initial design sketch, using the latest technology to create a spiritual and emotional space.

For the last few years, in the Andean foothills just outside Santiago, Chile, a mysterious orb-like structure has been slowly rising under construction cranes. The new Bahá’i Temple of South America will be the first of its kind on the continent when it opens in 2016. It has been a historic journey for the Bahá’i faith in this part of the world—Bahá’i first arrived in Chile in 1919—and a patient journey for the architects, engineers, and builders who have brought the temple to life through a decade-long process of innovation.

The engineering firms were key to keeping the integrity of the architectural form. Even in the final stages, Gartner Steel and Glass came up with a new approach that eliminated the sub-frame, saving over $850,000. Image Courtesy of Guy Wenborne It's been over a decade since the architects of South America's first Baha'i Temple sketched out its design. “The shape never changed from what it was on the computer in 2003,” says Doron Meinhard, project manager and associate-in-charge of Hariri Pontarini Architects. Image Courtesy of Guy Wenborne © Bahá’í Temple of South America The interior surface of the nine “sails” (above) is marble, the exterior is cast glass developed by artist Jeff Goodman. He took great care, using lab-grade borosilicate to avoid any thermal stress. SGH then put the material through rigorous testing: subjecting it to freeze and thaw cycles, and submerging it fully in water. Then, because the 2,000 panels on each of the sails are all unique, the seismic load on every single one had to be tested. Image Courtesy of Justin Ford

Could Hovering Buildings be the Future of Sustainability?

Could Hovering Buildings be the Future of Sustainability?

If Arx Pax, a cutting-edge technology firm led by Greg and Jill Henderson, has its way, levitating objects could become a common sight. The team is developing what they call Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA), a technology which controls electromagnetic energy to make objects hover, and at the several months ago, they used it to produce Hendo Hover, a hoverboard capable of carrying a person. While the fact that Arx Pax was able to produce a hoverboard is fascinating, the technology could have much more serious applications: as an architect, Greg Henderson envisions that one day MFA technology could be used in buildings to produce sustainable structures which can better survive earthquakes and other natural disasters. Is this goal realistic?

Which Video Games Have the Best Architecture?

With the ability to manipulate every interaction players have in a game, video game designers have boundless opportunity to shape the way players experience space. Because of this, game designers often look to architecture to enhance gameplay and provide inspiration for the appearances of their virtual worlds.

In the video above, Jamin Warren of YouTube show PBS Game/Show calls Halo the “most creative architectural game,” remarking that the brutalist-inspired architecture of the series exerted a strong influence on the way players move through levels and makes the battles in the game more immersive. Warren notes that several members of Halo’s development team had backgrounds in architecture; this observation suggests that the video gaming industry views architectural design as an essential element in its creative endeavors.

Warren makes an interesting point with his remarks on Halo: while people that inhabit virtual buildings cannot experience them physically, video game buildings can still be incredibly innovative and interesting. Which other video games feature innovative architectural approaches? Check out our list of six of the most architectural video games after the break.

via halowaypoint.com Screenshot from Assassin's Creed: Unity. Image © Flickr CC user Zehta Architecture from the SimCity expansion pack "Cities of Tomorrow". Image © simcity.com The city of Rapture in Bioshock. Image via bioshock.wikia.com

How "Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston" Hopes to Reclaim America's Concrete Heritage

Paul Rudolph, Government Service Center (1962-71). Image © Mark Pasnik
Paul Rudolph, Government Service Center (1962-71). Image © Mark Pasnik

In 2007, when the late Mayor Thomas Menino announced his intentions to demolish Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles' iconic Boston City Hall, he gave voice to a tragic but all-too-common popular discomfort with midcentury concrete architecture. Concerned that this threat was only the latest symptom of a pervasive misunderstanding of the significance of the concrete tradition, three architects - Mark Pasnik, Chris Grimley, and Michael Kubo - joined forces shortly thereafter to launch "The Heroic Project" and share their appreciation for this unfairly maligned chapter of architectural history. In addition to creating an internet web archive, Pasnik, Grimley, and Kubo jointly authored a forthcoming historical survey, Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston, scheduled to be released by The Monacelli Press in October 2015, which recasts the cultural and political story behind America's concrete heritage.

I.M. Pei & Partners and Araldo Cossutta, Associated Architects, Christian Science Center (1964-73). Image © Mark Pasnik Kallmann, McKinnell, & Knowles, Boston City Hall (1962-69). Image © Mark Pasnik Paul Rudolph, Government Service Center (1962-71). Image © Mark Pasnik Marcel Breuer & Associates, Madison Park High School (1966-77). Image © Mark Pasnik

14 Modern Buildings Receive Conservation Grants from the Getty Foundation

The Getty Foundation has selected 14 modernist buildings from across the globe to receive grants under its Keeping It Modern initiative, which seeks to help conserve 20th century architecture by putting a focus on conservation planning and research. 

“The use of concrete, while visually striking and radical for its time, has created a unique set of challenges for conserving some of the world’s most important modernist structures. Our new grants offer an excellent opportunity to advance research and conservation practices for this material. The accumulated knowledge that will result from the projects will be of tremendous benefit to the field," states the Getty Foundation. 

View all 14 projects, after the break.

ASF Announces Winners of Inaugural International Awards

Espacios de Paz (Spaces for Peace) / PICO Estudio & Movimiento Por la Paz y la Vida. Image Courtesy of ASF International Awards
Espacios de Paz (Spaces for Peace) / PICO Estudio & Movimiento Por la Paz y la Vida. Image Courtesy of ASF International Awards

Architecture Sans Frontières has announced the winners of their inaugural ASF International Awards, which aim to recognize “efficient solutions developed by architects globally to the many social, environmental and economic challenges facing the built environment.” 

From 68 submissions, three winners were selected: PICO Estudio & Movimiento Por la Paz y la Vida’s Espacios de Paz (Spaces for Peace) project in Venezuela; ASF France’s La Passerelle in Saint-Denis, France; and Building Trust International for their work in Asia and Africa.

Learn more about the winning projects after the break.

SelgasCano's Serpentine Pavilion: "Cheap Plastic Bag" or "Pop-Art Inflatable Funscape"?

We're just three days into the four-month display of SelgasCano's 2015 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion and the comments it has generated from ArchDaily readers have already been as colorful as the pavilion itself - with criticisms ranging from "worst Serpentine Gallery Pavilion ever" to "trash bag monster" and a few other comparisons that I'd rather not even repeat. This may surprise some people, but at ArchDaily we do actually read the comments section, and we get it: unless you're the brave and persistent soul who comments as "notyourproblem," who thinks "it must be exciting getting inside those tunnels," there's a good chance that you hate this pavilion - and I don't use the word "hate" lightly.

But is this violent dismissal warranted? In short, is SelgasCano's pavilion as bad as you probably think it is? Fortunately, we're not the only publication giving the pavilion extensive coverage: as usual the Serpentine Gallery has attracted a number of the UK's most well-known critics. Find out what they thought of the pavilion after the break.

© Laurian Ghinitoiu © Laurian Ghinitoiu © Jim Stephenson © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Sustainability on Roosevelt Island: How Morphosis and Arup Are Making Cornell's Bloomberg Center Net Zero

© Cornell University / Kilograph
© Cornell University / Kilograph

When the first images of Cornell University's new campus on Roosevelt Island were unveiled last year, the First Academic Building (now known as the Bloomberg Center) was highlighted as a design driven by sustainability. In this interview, originally published by Arup's newly-revamped online magazine Arup Doggerel as "Net zero learning," Sarah Wesseler talks to members of the team from Morphosis, Arup and Cornell about how they designed the building to be one of the most sustainable education facilities in the world.

For its new tech-focused New York City campus, Cornell University set out to create one of America’s most sustainable university centers. With the net zero Bloomberg Center now in construction, I interviewed three leaders of the design team — Diana Allegretti, Assistant Director for Design and Construction at Cornell; Ung Joo Scott Lee, a principal at Morphosis; and Tom Rice, a structural engineer and project manager at Arup.

Bloomberg Center exterior rendering. Image © Morphosis Architects © Cornell University / Kilograph Bloomberg Center exterior rendering. Image © Cornell University / Kilograph © Cornell University / Kilograph

50 Projects Shortlisted for World Interior of the Year 2015

INSIDE World Festival of Interiors has announced the 50 nominees being considered for the World Interior of the Year 2015 award. Running concurrently with the World Architecture Festival, INSIDE comprises of the most original and exciting interiors from the last 12 months. 

Nominations have poured in from 16 countries that span four continents across the nine diverse categories that make up the awards. Among those competing are two dentistries, a music arena, two cinemas and a global TV studio. All nominees will compete in the form of live presentations and debates to a distinguished jury during the festival in November. Read on for a complete list of the shortlisted projects.

Shepherd's Bush Pavilion Hotel; London / Flanagan Lawrence. Image Courtesy of INSIDE New Rock World Ktv; X / Inspiration Group. Image Courtesy of INSIDE Uralchem Headquarters; Moscow / Luis Pedra Silva - Pedra Silva Architects. Image Courtesy of INSIDE Melbourne School of Design, The University of Melbourne; Melbourne / John Wardle Architects and NADAAA in collaboration. Image Courtesy of INSIDE

Light Matters: A Flash Back to the Glittering Age of Las Vegas at the Neon Museum

Thanks to the increasing availability of giant LED screens, the Golden Age of Neon has quietly faded in Las Vegas. For decades casinos defined their visual identity with colorful neon signs and competed for the most innovative signage. But with casinos closing, being refurbished and the arrival of new lighting technology a lot of neon signs were replaced, and for many years the Young Electric Sign Company kept the old neon signs in their "boneyard" for storage and recycling. Fortunately historic preservation groups rescued these signs. With support of the arts council The Neon Museum was born to save neon treasures and to educate the public.

Read on to explore Las Vegas' luminous landmarks and The Neon Museum.

Neon Museum featuring more than 150 unrestored signs, Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum, www.neonmuseum.org Front exterior of the Mint Hotel, Las Vegas / Nevada, circa 1957. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. Colour-changing neon sign on the façade of the Stardust Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 1969. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. La Concha Motel lobby building, designed in 1961, was rescued from demolition and moved to its current location in 2007 to serve as the Neon Museum’s visitors’ center. Architect: Paul Williams. Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum, www.neonmuseum.org