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
Photography: 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
Photography: 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
Photography: Mike Crews
inside the main living space at Edith Farnsworth house
Photography: Mike Crews