Farnsworth House – a plan for mitigating future flood damage

Farnsworth House / Photo: @kittysingsuwan


This week was something, wasn’t it?

I’m bummed that my travel plans are on hold. But no matter, I have a backlog of stories to tell.

Here’s one from my visit to Farnsworth House in August, 2019.

Full disclosure: I love Mies van der Rohe’s work, and Farnsworth House is an absolute favorite. I would live there if I could, windows and all.


Wait, what flood mitigation?

As we walked through the property and home, our docent relived the history of Farnsworth House, drama and all, and made special mention of the Flood Mitigation Project.

me: Wait, what flood mitigation?

I’ve heard about the floods before, though I never paid attention. I was always too busy admiring the structure, I guess.

Anyway, Farnsworth House stands on a floodplain. So expensive, time consuming repairs are the norm, especially in the last 20 years. It finally got to a point where The National Trust put together an advisory panel to explore possible solutions.

A hydraulic lift

After much research, review, and discussion, they decided that building a hydraulic lift underneath Farnsworth House would be the best option for mitigating future flood damage. This “lift” would raise the structure when flood waters flowed in, and lower it when safe to do so.

Insert awkward silence as we tried to wrap our heads around it.

The combination of steel truss linkages and hydraulics would be permanently built into the foundation.

I still can’t imagine it.

As for the utilities, according to @farnsworthhouse, “the working utilities will be reattached with flexible connections that allow for the shift.”

Honestly, it’s nuts.

If you think about, though, the hydraulic lift is the best solution. The alternatives involve raising the structure, moving it to higher ground, building a preventative something-or-other on the property, or relying on something unreliable. All of which compromise Mies’ original intention and vision.

I say Mies and not Farnsworth because, well, architects.

If you’re into preservation or design or architecture or creativity, you’ll agree that safekeeping intention and vision is equally as important.

And if you don’t agree, well, the hydraulic lift is the best solution. Period.

I believe Farnsworth House and The National Trust are still in the process of raising funds for this project. And I hope they do it. It’ll be cool to see the lift once it’s built.


Travel tip: When COVID-19 mandates subside, Farnsworth House should be open year round. The best way to get there is by car.

Another travel tip: Grab a burger at Crusade Burger Bar after your tour. You can thank me later.


If you enjoyed this post and want to lend your support, consider buying me a Ko-Fi.

Wherever you are and whatever your circumstance, deep breath, you can do this.

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