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Ten Historic Architectural Marvels That Proved to be Nearly Uninhabitable

The Farnsworth House | Image: Marco 2000 

In 1945, wealthy nephrologist Dr. Edith Farnsworth of Chicago commissioned celebrated modern architect Mies van der Rohe to design a weekend home at which she could enjoy her hobbies of playing the violin, translating poetry and enjoying nature.

Van der Rohe came up with plans for the Farnsworth House which, after construction in a then rural expanse 55 miles south of Chicago, instantly became regarded as a model of modern architecture. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and became a National Historic Landmark in 2006. The house is now a museum, run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The architecture even exists as a LEGO kit. Yet Dr. Farnsworth was incensed to find the structure practically uninhabitable once she began spending time there. 

Van der Rohe refused to install blinds or curtains to cover the floor-to-ceiling windows that were the walls of the house. Thus, the heating bills were tremendous, and Farnsworth had no privacy. Due to the fame of its architect, sightseers were constantly trying to get a glimpse of the building. The doctor complained that people with cameras were snapping pictures of her in her underwear at night.

Also at night, the light from within and rural location attracted moths in droves. Insects and mosquitoes infested the open plan areas. Despite Dr. Farnworth suing Van der Rohe — her rumored former romantic liason —  over these drawbacks, she was left with no recourse when she lost her suit.

Read about other revered architectural masterpieces that were living nightmares, including the Palace of Versailles and the homes of Frank Lloyd Wright, here.  


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I wondered that too. I suppose since he was a famous architect and the building was known as his creation that something contractual like that might have been in the realm of possibility. Without researching it I don't know the answer.
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It's not just architectural masterpieces that can be useless. You should see what passes for a "home" round here these days. Ours ain't large, but at least there's room to do something other than sit in front of the telly all day. Modern "affordable" homes are only any good if you don't want space for a couple of kids' bikes, a pushchair and a life. If you want a hobby that you can't do on your lap - forget it.
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