As a design exercise, California-based architecture firm Jeff Barrett Studio has reimagined Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth House for the modern times with a sustainable redesign that includes onsite renewable energy and modular construction. Conceived as a case study for sustainability that would still pay homage to the original architectural style, the proposed design follows the same building footprint while introducing a new materials palette and energy-saving features.

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rendering of Farnsworth House topped with solar panels

Located in Plano, Illinois, about an hour west of Chicago, the Farnsworth House is recognized worldwide as a masterpiece of International Style of architecture. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed and constructed the 1,500-square-foot structure between 1945 and 1951 as a country retreat for his client, Dr. Edith Farnsworth. Built with two slabs, a series of steel columns and expansive floor-to-ceiling glass throughout, the minimalist home was created to usher the natural landscape indoors. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and currently operates as a historic house museum that welcomes over 10,000 guests from around the world annually.

Related: Gorgeous Miesian-inspired glass pavilion floats above a natural dam

rendering of Farnsworth House interior with several skylights and steel beams

Jeff Barrett Studios has revisited the structure with a conceptual redesign that features both low-tech and high-tech sustainable strategies. “How might this dwelling be reinvisioned [sic] today given current technologies, would the structure remain significant aesthetically, and how might it function as a case study for sustainability?” the architects said in a project statement. “The project has been developed with consideration to sustainable concepts and innovative technologies reaching high energy performance and constructability.”

diagram explaining sustainable elements of conceptual redesign for Farnsworth House

Instead of the original steel-and-glass palette, the architects propose building the structure with cross-laminated timber, more specifically acetylated wood (Accoya) for its durability and resistance to decay. The use of CLT would also allow for modular construction, which would reduce material waste. The iconic full-height windows would have low-E glazing, while operable skylights on the roof introduce an element of passive ventilation. The roof would be covered in photovoltaic panels and vegetation, and a natural swimming pool would round out the property. 

+ Jeff Barrett Studio

Images via Jeff Barrett Studio