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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, August 9

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Architecture Mon Apr 14 2008

He Who Lives in a Glass House...

...must have hired Mies van der Rohe.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation has just announced tickets for a comprehensive tour of of Mies's work in the Chicago area. The tour culminates at the iconic Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois. Throughout the seven hour tour, you will be taken on a virtual time-line of Modern masterpieces. The tour will be guided by CAF docents whom, from personal experience, are always exceptionally informative. Each tour starts at 9:30 a.m. and they have dates on Thursdays and Sundays through October.

The Farnsworth House demonstrates the standard repertoire of the Modern movement. Where Mies excelled, was his ability to craft the modest ideals of simplicity and clarity to the level of elegance and precision. The piloti employed in the Farnsworth House and Crown Hall (IIT) raise the entire building off of the earth to exaggerate the notion that a building is a machine; man-made and not natural. The fa├žade of the box, however, is clad in transparent glass to provide experiences connected to the surrounding landscape. Meis designed an uncountable number of understated, yet ingenious details to express the structure as a singular, complete building. If you are able to take the tour, be sure to explore the connections between the materials used. Elements such as a window jamb or a corner became opportunities for opulence in an otherwise plain design language.

While the craft Mies van der Rohe poured into his designs has few equals, you may note that certain aspects of his designs are lacking. It is easy to imagine a swanky dinner party on one of the Farnsworth House's hovering platforms, but it becomes more difficult to visualize yourself comfortably walking around the house without the curtains pulled tightly closed. The formulaic and highly logical approach utilized by Mies lead to unintentional ambiguities. The visual similarities between the Farnsworth House and Crown Hall are easily apparent, yet the buildings serve entirely different functions. Like a machine, Mies churned out design after design. This approach proved to be more successful for skyscraper projects such as the IBM Building and the Federal Building Complex, both of which are on the tour.

So for anyone else (like me) who is an absolute nut for discussions of Modern architecture, definitely check out this tour which, at $70 for seven hours in a coach bus, is a great deal.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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