• Curtained Walls: Architectural Photography, the Farnsworth House, and the Opaque Discourse of Transparency

    Author(s):
    Sarah M. Dreller (see profile)
    Date:
    2015
    Group(s):
    Architectural History and Theory, History of Art
    Subject(s):
    Architectural history, History of photography, Modernism, Interior design history
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Architectural Photography, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Farnsworth House, Hedrich Blessing, Transparency
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M67K2X
    Abstract:
    This paper studies the creation, circulation, and reception of two groups of photographs of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's iconic Farnsworth House, both taken by Hedrich Blessing. The first set, produced for a 1951 Architectural Forum magazine cover story, features curtains carefully arranged according to the architect's preferences; the Museum of Modern Art commissioned the second set in 1985 for a major Mies retrospective exhibition specifically because the show's influential curator, Arthur Drexler, believed the curtains obscured Mies's so-called "glass box" design. Through comparative object-based analysis and in-depth exploration of the images' discursive context, "Curtained Walls" finds both groups of photographs to be quasi-fictional portraits that are valuable today for how they engaged various modernist concerns rather than as reliable architectural representations. Ultimately, this paper complicates the history of a building famous for being minimal---and questions whether these photographs helped direct critical opinion of the Farnsworth House toward a transparency-focused narrative and away from other potential interpretations.
    Notes:
    Visit this article's companion website, The Vanishing Porch in Perspective, for additional original research & images: https://curtainedwallstimeline.hcommons.org.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    9 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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