Friday, August 12, 2022

Was the Edith Farnsworth House a Commie Plot?

The Edith Farnsworth House.
Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1951,
on the Fox River just outside Plano, Illinois.
The Edith Farnsworth House is one of the most significant buildings of the 20th century. It is one of the jewels of the Chicago area and not to be missed.

Even before it was built, some people hated the house, and not on aesthetic grounds. They considered it subversive. In short, communist. They believed the design dictum "less is more," as embodied by this modernist masterpiece, was a communist plot to condition people to accept the lowest-common-denominator leveling that was inevitable in a forced egalitarian society. 

It didn't seem to matter that Edith Farnsworth was a wealthy physician who commissioned the house as a weekend retreat. We could all stand such leveling.

One of the harshest critics was Elizabeth Gordon, editor of House Beautiful. In 1953, she edited a forward-looking issue of the magazine that included an essay, "The Threat to the Next America," in which she explained her theories about the subversive agenda of modernism advocates. 

Some quotes: 

"They are trying to convince you that you can appreciate beauty only if you suffer – because they say beauty and comfort are incompatible." 

"They are a self-chosen elite who are trying to tell us what we should like and how we should live." 

"For if we can be sold on accepting dictators in matters of taste and how our homes are to be ordered, our minds are certainly well prepared to accept dictators in other departments of life." 

"Break people’s confidence in reason and their own common sense and they are on the way to attaching themselves to a leader, a mass movement, or any sort of authority beyond themselves." 

All this because Edith Farnsworth complained to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe because the house didn't have any closets. 


Sam Komlenic said...

Amen, brother, amen.

Anonymous said...

It's a magnificent structure but apparently both building it and living in it were nightmares for Ms. Farnsworth. BTW if you haven't seen it the new home of the School of Architecture at Indiana University-Bloomington is the spitting image of the Farnsworth House. Built over the past few years from plans designed by Mies at about the same time as Farnsworth. Just gorgeous and presumably better insulated. And with closets.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Not identical, but incorporating many of the same ideas.