On September 14, 2008 heavy rains caused the Fox River in Plano, IL to spill its banks and flood Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House. The flood damaged the house and the furniture within, specifically a large wardrobe that was added to the house at the request of Mies’s client Edith Farnsworth.
Unlike the other, smaller pieces of furniture in the house, the 12’ x 6’ x 2’ wardrobe is too large to be removed from the house in case of another flood. With the existing visitor center not able to accommodate this large piece of furniture, a need existed for additional exhibition space to display this historic piece of furniture.
Frank Flury, a design-build professor at Mies’s own Illinois Institute of Technology presented the project to his students and the team sought to design an adaptable exhibition space that solved the Farnsworth House’s need to display the wardrobe while being able to host events such as lectures and exhibitions. After many iterations and critiques the team decided it would be appropriate to design in the local vernacular, something similar to the farm buildings that are scattered over the nearby landscape.
The studio designed a contemporary round barn, simple and compact; the round floor plan creates a natural exhibition space. The interior walls are segmented while the exterior walls feature vertical board and batten siding to create a continuous curve. The walls are free from openings providing extensive display space while a simple and elegant lantern sits atop the space to allow the penetration of natural light.
The costs of the project were completely fundraised by the students, through kickstarter and the help of local businesses. Much creativity went into recycling and conserving material, including using all of the lumber scraps from the project to create an end-grain floor.