014 – Farnsworth House, Telling the whole story

Dive into the world of Midcentury Modern architecture with the first episode of our two-part series, exploring the iconic Dr. Edith Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe. This episode unravels the complex story behind the creation of this architectural masterpiece, from Mies’s dramatic departure from Nazi Germany, leaving behind his family, to the protracted design and construction process that eventually led to a notorious lawsuit and rumors of a romantic entanglement with Dr. Farnsworth—rumors that bear no resemblance to the truth.

Join us as we speak with Scott Mehaffey, the Executive Director at the Dr. Edith Farnsworth House National Historic Site, and Nora Wendl, an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of New Mexico, for an in-depth discussion on the house that not only stands as a testament to Mies van der Rohe’s architectural genius but also inspired Philip Johnson’s Glass House, the subject of our next episode. Get ready for a compelling journey into the past, marked by innovation, scandal, and the timeless allure of midcentury modern design.




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Show notes & links


Guest Bio

Nora Wendl is an associate professor of architecture at University of New Mexico and executive editor of the Journal of Architectural Education. Wendl’s work engages architectural historiography through methods involving image, text, narrative, performance, and exhibition. Her research has been supported by the Graham Foundation, Santa Fe Art Institute, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, among other institutions. Wendl has published, lectured, and exhibited widely. Her book manuscript, “The Edith Project,” was recently shortlisted for the 2022 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.

Scott Mehaffey, MS, FASLA is Executive Director of the 56-acre Farnsworth House National Historic Landmark, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Scott holds a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois College of Fine & Applied Arts, and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Dominican University. Prior to joining the National Trust, Scott was Landscape Coordinator for the City of Chicago under Mayor Richard M. Daley, and for many years, was Landscape Architect for the historic Morton Arboretum. Scott is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and has been active in cultural landscape preservation since the 1980s as a consultant, curator, program organizer, author, speaker and advocate. Scott has been an Adjunct Professor in the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture, a workshop leader and recurrent speaker for the American Public Gardens Association, and has taught cultural landscape preservation for landscape architects, contractors and historic preservation students.

“Because of the lawsuit, she was relegated to the footnotes of history as the crazy spurned ex-lover, who had never appreciated the house. And of course, that was just a mischaracterization. We’ve conducted a lot of research in recent years and learned what a fascinating person she was, that she was integral to the design of the house until the lawsuit. She really hasn’t been given due credit. She was really Mies’ only client, a patron, really, at a point when he had no private commissions.”

“Nobody really has time for propaganda anymore. It doesn’t educate. It doesn’t serve anybody. I think the public can handle that. I think the public actually really wants to know the entire story”


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Photos from 1971

Photos from 2019

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