The Vanishing Porch in Perspective is an interactive timeline about the brief life of the Farnsworth House’s screened porch. The porch was a key architectural element for the building’s owner, Dr. Edith Farnsworth, because she needed protection from the riverside site’s mosquitoes when she opened the glass entry doors for cross-ventilation. It was screened with fine-weave corrosion-resistant wire mesh cloth and had an elegant center-pivot door that was framed in bronze. The porch was designed in 1945, constructed in 1952, and demolished in the early 1970s.

Detail of Farnsworth House watercolor elevation
Detail of an early Farnsworth House presentation drawing. Screened porch, center, indicated with hashmarks; glass-enclosed interior, left, indicated with diagonal lines; unroofed platform with stairs, right. Edward Duckett for Mies van der Rohe, 1945. (Object Number 1002.1965, Museum of Modern Art. © 2018 Artist Rights Society (ARS) New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)


Why is recovering the screened porch’s history important?

Because the porch was directly associated with Mies’s woman client and the only part of his design that critics at the time ignored, marginalized, or even openly attacked—and then it was demolished when Farnsworth sold the property and essentially forgotten. The goal of the Vanishing Porch in Perspective is to re-insert the screened porch back into this iconic building’s story so that modern architecture scholars and enthusiasts can appreciate the Farnsworth House in a more informed, inclusive way.

About the project

This website is an experiment in digital storytelling conceived, built, and maintained by Sarah M. Dreller, PhD. It was inspired by the fall 2017 #MeToo/#TimesUp movements and accompanies an academic article written by Sarah called “Curtained Walls: Architectural Photography, the Farnsworth House, and the Opaque Discourse of Transparency.” You can read more about Sarah, why she undertook this project, how she designed the website, etc. on the About page.

[Note: If you’re not interested in this timeline’s interactive features or if you want larger images, click here to see the same information presented as a static page.]


Read more

“Award $14,467 to Architect of Glass House.” Chicago Daily Tribune. (June 9, 1953): 20.

“Charges Famed Architect with Fraud, Deceit.” Chicago Daily Tribune (October 30, 1951): A5.

Dreller, Sarah M. “Curtained Walls: Architectural Photography, the Farnsworth House, and the Opaque Discourse of Transparency.” ARRIS: The Journal of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians 26 (2015): 22-39.

Dunlap, David. “House Proud: Personal Visions.” The New York Times (June 24, 1999).

Fitch, James Marston. “Mies van der Rohe and the Platonic Verities,” in Four Great Makers of Modern Architecture: Gropius, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Wright; The Verbatim Record of a Symposium Held at the School of Architecture, Columbia University, March-May, 1961. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970. This is an unabridged republication of the first edition, published by Columbia University in 1963.

Gordon, Elizabeth. “The Threat to the Next America.” House Beautiful 95 (April 1953): 126-30.

“Edith Farnsworth House, 14520 River Road, Plano, Kendall County, IL,” Survey number: HABS IL-1105. Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1958.

Johnson, Philip. “House at New Canaan, Connecticut.” Architectural Review 108:645 (September 1950): 152-59.

“Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Farnsworth house in Fox River, Ill.” Architectural Forum 95:4 (October 1951): 156-161.

Summers, Gene. Interview by Pauline A. Saliga, 7-8 October 1987, compiled c.1993 under the auspices of the Chicago Architects Oral History Project. Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.


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