The Edith Farnsworth House in Plano is an iconic modernist design of steel and glass with the building blending perfectly with its natural rural setting. In a discussion with Norwegian architectural theorist, Christian Norberg-Schulz in 1958, the architect of the home, Mies van der Rohe, defended its unusual design: “We should attempt to bring nature, houses, and human beings together in higher unity. If you view nature through the glass walls…it gains a profound significance than if viewed from the outside.” For Mies, who arrived in Chicago in 1938, he believed the one thing that should always be present in modern architecture is the expression of structure. Not everyone is a fan of this particular style, often inviting criticisms against its glass walls, lack of ornament and coziness, and flat roofs. But for architecture nerds, the following properties for sale are a feast for the eyes. The Miesian influence is immediately apparent in the two properties designed by former students of the man himself, who led the architecture department at Illinois Institute of Technology. The other two listings are “less Mies” but still show the impact the architect had on Chicagoland residential design in the 1950s and 60s. Whatever you think about mid century modernism, I bet you wouldn’t turn down the chance to sit and enjoy the lovely views from these remarkable glass houses.
Just hitting the market in early November, the “House on a Bluff” in Olympia Fields was designed by architect H.P. Davis Rockwell as his own personal residence where he lived with his family between 1964-2006. In Arts & Architecture magazine, Rockwell wrote the “building partakes of the landscape” due to the gravel forecourt and treatment of glass. Situated on 2.5 secluded acres overlooking Butterfield Creek, the modern two-story glass pavilion has an open floor plan with a central core kitchen. A spiral staircase goes down to a lower level built into the ground. Four monumental reinforced concrete columns not only hold up the massive roof, but also allow for glass corner windows, perfect for uninterrupted views of the mature trees right outside.
For almost 30 years, architect Louis Huebner lived and worked in Park Ridge, teaming up with partner James Henneberg to create this stylish glass and steel design on a hillside site in 1964. It’s one of only 24 homes located on Park Lake, near the intersection of Dee Road and Touhy Avenue. Currently listed at $1.6 million, this five-bedroom, three-bathroom single-family residence has been fully renovated and is now environmentally friendly (an expandable solar panel system has been installed). Interior features include seven skylights in the main corridor, a striking spiral staircase that connects to the lower level and patio, and walls of energy-efficient windows full of water views. The $700 annual HOA fee includes lake rights.
Built in 1965, this minimalist design was the personal residence of architect Philip Thrane, a student of Mies van der Rohe. On the market for the first time in 14 years, the three-bedroom, four-bathroom house is snuggled into the bucolic enclave of Riverwoods, known for its notable examples of midcentury modern architecture. The expansive walls of glass and simplicity of the interior help connect homeowners with the natural surroundings. Thrane’s aesthetic touches, including the white oaks floors and half walls, survive throughout the space — but there have been some changes. The kitchen has been updated with wood cabinets, composite stone countertops, and tiled flooring that blends with the rectilinear concrete patio. Two of the bedrooms have sliding doors to this serene outdoor space, further achieving the Miesian philosophy of total unity between dwellings and nature.
Saved the best for the last with this stunning home that’s on the public market for the first time ever. The sprawling four-bedroom, four-bathroom residence is located on a wooded site down a private cul-de-sac in the historic village of Wayne. With its name “Enwilde” preserved on the front brick pillars, the home’s original owner, Chester Trowbridge, didn’t see eye to eye with his original choice of architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. So in 1957, he hired someone else to give him an angular Wright-inspired design of natural materials, built-ins, and bands of windows. While a 1977 addition has resulted in a maze-like floor plan, it doesn’t take away from local architect Al Eichstaedt who matched original materials and geometric patterns. Usonian in feel with cypress walls, slate floors, and clerestory windows, the design blends perfectly with the surrounding six acres. The outdoor space includes a multi-level stone patio and in-ground pool.