Edith Farnsworth House's renaming celebrates visionary client

Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House is officially renamed the Edith Farnsworth House, celebrating its visionary client 

two women with black dog on steps
Edith Farnsworth and Beth Dunlap outside the former’s house in 1951.
(Image credit: William Dunlap)

Mies van der Rohe's famous Farnsworth House has officially been renamed the Edith Farnsworth House, in honour of the woman behind the project's commission. The Plano, Illinois home, one of the architect's most instantly recognisable projects and a key landmark in modernist architecture worldwide, is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. And while the design's renowned architect has been feted in all manner of ways, its visionary client, Edith Farnsworth, has so far taken a back seat. 

This is set to change, as an official rededication ceremony on site this week recognised Dr Farnsworth – the client, benefactor and supporter of the arts who created this home for herself by appointing Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to work on the residential design, which was completed in 1951. Addressing the important role of the client in any architectural project, as well as the balance between Farnsworth and Mies van der Rohe's role in the particular commission, the renaming feels a key step in acknowledging Farnsworth's contribution.

Edith Farnsworth house, front view

(Image credit: Mike Crews)

‘We hope this seemingly simple act of inserting her first name has the larger effect of inserting her into the ongoing history of modern architecture,' says executive director of the Edith Farnsworth House, Scott Mehaffey.

‘Without Edith Farnsworth, Mies van der Rohe’s American career might have remained stalled and his stature been usurped by that of his contemporaries. Edith was fully aware that she was both a client and a patron, and she played an active role in the design of her house, which has become a celebrated milestone in the evolution of modernism.'

Edith Farnsworth outside her house

(Image credit: David W. Dunlap)

The rededication ceremony took place on 17 November 2021, the date of Edith Farnsworth's birthday. The event is accompanied by programming that reflects this and tells the story around the life of this inspired architecture enthusiast and client. 

‘The Edith Farnsworth House has always been a place of barrier-breaking ideas, and its rededication carries that legacy forward in deeply meaningful ways,' says Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. ‘Doing this not only acknowledges the important role of Edith Farnsworth, but it also demonstrates that historic sites can and must continue to evolve as they tell us the truth about ourselves and help us define a more just and equitable future.' 

close up of entrance and steps at the house

(Image credit: Mike Crews)

inside the main living space with brown cushion chairs

(Image credit: Mike Crews)



Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).