Mies van der Rohe’s grandson has backed plans for a £1.8 million system of hydraulic jacks to rescue Farnsworth House from repeated flooding
Dirk Lohan of Chicago-based studio Lohan Anderson spoke out in favour of the ambitious proposal as debate over plans to save the iconic building intensified.
Last year the owner, National Trust for Historic Preservation published three alternative options to protect the steel and glass retreat which is next to the flood-prone Fox River.
The proposals include elevating the structure in situ, relocating the dwelling to higher ground within the 25 hectare estate - which is understood to be the trust’s preferred solution - and using a hydraulic system to temporarily raise the house during flooding.
Commenting on the best way forward, Lohan told the AJ: ‘To relocate the house several hundred feet from the river onto much higher ground will certainly save it from flooding, but it will also create an entirely new contextual environment that has nothing to do with the intended relationship to the natural features of the site that Mies had in mind.
He added: ‘To move the house out of the flood plain would render its basic idea, of a house on stilts, as having no logic.’
Instead Lohan, who is on the Trust’s Technical Advisory Panel, wants an underground hydraulic lift system which would be activated ‘whenever dangerous floods were approaching’ but which would be ‘completely invisible during non-flood times’ (read his full comments here).
Over the last 20 years the single-storey Farnsworth House has been flooded three times by the river. Water levels reached almost half a metre above floor level after Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Mies van der Rohe completed the 140m² weekend house in 1951 for Chicago paediatrician Edith Farnsworth.
The trust will present the options to local presevation group Landmarks Illinois for approval later this month.