A Shiny New Neighbor for the Farnsworth House

Midwest

Virginia Tech's Lumenhaus is completely self-powered and the exterior is lit with subtle building-integrated LEDs at night. (All photos of the Lumenhaus: Jim Stroup)

Virginia Tech’s Solar Decathlon-winning Lumenhaus is currently cooling its heals in the opulent surroundings of Millennium Park. The house, which has been touring the globe, was brought to town to coincide with GreenBuild, and is remaining on view through Saturday. The compact house is efficiently designed both in terms of space and energy use, and is completely self-sustaining. Though its stay in Millennium Park will be brief, it’s not going far. The house will be stored on the grounds of the Farnsworth House for the winter and will be open to the public when it reopens for the spring season in April 2011. Whitney French, executive director of the Farnsworth House, sees a deep connection between the two structures. 

“The design is deduced from the ideas of Farnsworth. It’s organized around a utility core with broad views out to the landscape,” French said. She also points out that Mies’ design take advantages of natural cross ventilation and seasonal changes in sun and shade. And while Farnsworth was revolutionary in its day–and is still considered one of the world’s great houses–Lumenhaus is decidedly more high-tech, with the latest in sustainable bells and whistles. It also uses more passive techniques, including rainwater retention ponds and passive heating.

The interior is bright and open, a model of efficient, contemporary living. The Lumenhaus won’t have to compete directly with the Farnsworth in terms of aesthetics, though. It will be situated near the visitors center, some distance from Mies’ materpiece. The Lumenhaus is expected to remain at the Farnsworth site until June, 2011.

(courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

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