TY project by Jacob Burrill #Farnsworth House @swinfordtown

We’re in TY Work Experience season at the moment.

Click HERE for the last years projects that were undertaken by Transition Year (TY) Students (15/16 yo) spending a week with us. TY is a year dossing working in the real world, working on other academic and non-academic subjects and having a bit of a breather prior to the 2 years Leaving Certificate Programme (17-19 yo).

The first of this year’s TY batch is Jacob Burrill and as well as doing the normal errands, photocopying and making the tea – I get them to undertake a project investigating an architectural project. The one chosen for Jacob (which I was lucky to visit this year) was Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe.

So here is his work which will also be on display in the front window for a week:

Words, foamboard model & SketchUp model & animation by Jacob Burrill

Farnsworth House

The Farnsworth House was designed and constructed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1945 to 51. The house is built on the bank of Fox River, south of the city Plano in Illinois, USA.

It was commissioned by Dr. Edith Farnsworth, so she could use it as a weekend getaway house to engage in her hobbies and work. One of her hobbies was enjoying nature, so Mies based it off that by ensuring that all the walls were made out of glass, reaching from the floor to the ceiling. This is spread out across the whole building separated only by 8 I-shaped steel columns.
This weekend retreat home is considered as one of Mies’ most popular domestic designs. The house itself is a single-room, glass and steel structure, elevated 1.6 metres off the ground on a flood plain. It has a platform at the side of the house, leading up to a terrace with a double door entrance.


Construction Materials + Structure

The building is mainly composed of mill-formed steel and laminated glass plates, but it includes other materials such as travertine for the floors, plaster for the ceiling, primavera wood for the core walls, and teak wood for the wardrobe.

In terms of structure, the house built to be as minimalistic as possible. The 8 steel columns are separated by 6.60 metres of glass wrapping around the whole structure. The roof has a clear height of 2.85 metres from the floor, which is 1.6 metres from the ground. The roof has a slight incline at the centre so that rain can flow towards the edges.
The centre wood core contains two bathrooms and it creates sort of a separation between the kitchen, the living room, the dining room and the bedroom.



Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Dr. Edith Farnsworth met at a dinner party in 1945 where she asked him to design the weekend retreat. She asked him to design it as if it was for himself. The property of River Road was purchased by Farnsworth from the publisher at Chicago Tribune, Colonel Robert R. McCormack. Mies included the house design in his exhibit at the MOMA (Museum Of Modern Art) in New York City in 1947.

Work began on the house in 1950 and was fully completed in 1951. The total cost of the house was $74,000, which would amount to about $700,114 in 2016. It was originally planned to cost $58,400 in the pre-construction budget but was overrun by $15,600. This was due to inflating prices of construction materials.

A lawsuit was filed near the end of construction by Mies, for a non-payment of $28,173 in construction costs. A counter suit was then filed by the owner for supposed malpractice. Mies’ attorneys proved that Farnsworth had approved the plans and budget increases, and the court ordered the owner to pay her bills. This meant that the inside of the house wasn’t furnished and the site was uncompleted, so the teak wardrobe closet and the screened porch were completed as to Mies’ design by his former employee and fellow architect William Dunlap and a local millworker, who compromised between.

Edith Farnsworth continued to use the weekend retreat for the next 21 years, often letting famous architects at the time view the work of Mies. In 1968, a highway was started to be built a raised bridge over Fox River, meaning that the house was close to it. She sued against the local highway department, but lost the case, so instead she sold the house in 1972 and retired to her villa in Italy.

Below are a few photographs of the model I made in foamboard:



I also created a SketchUp model where you can see the animation of this below:


The project is also on display in the office window for the next few weeks, so if you’re in area pop by for a look:


[Editors Note: A special thanks to Jacob for the week, I hope the work he’s undertaken this week has given an insight into the work of the architect]

[Editors Note #2 – Spotted this great set of images and information during construction on the detail of Farnsworth House (link below):

Image from architizer.com


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