Lighting Up Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House

Two Chicago multimedia artists want to flip the switch on a Mies masterpiece to create an immersive experience.
INsite Project at Farnsworth House
INsite: Farnsworth House Light Show

Luftwerk member Petra Bachmaier wants the audience to engage with the Modernist home during he group’s proposed light show.

Photo by Kate Joyce

“We should attempt to bring nature, houses, and human beings together into a higher unity." Mies van der Rohe’s words are a fitting mantra when admiring Farnsworth House, his famous home in Plano, Illinois. Now, two Chicago new media artists want to give visitors even more to consider with a proposed multimedia light show that will illuminate the spatial language of the Modernist landmark.

Petra Bachmaier and her collaborator Sean Gallero, who work together under the name Luftwerk, want to surround the Modernist home with a bank of ten projectors and layer a panorama of bright shapes and lines. Currently raising funds on Kickstarter, the design duo plans to stage their light show, called INsite, in October 2014, alongside a soundtrack by composer and percussionist Owen Clayton Condon.

“We want people to engage with the entire site, to celebrate it like [Mies] did,” says Bachmeier. “We really like the site specificity, the relationship to the river and trees. It allows us to explore transparency and open space.”

INsite: Farnsworth House Light Show
INsite: Farnsworth House Light Show

These photographs are offered as pledges to backers of the Kickstarter, which ends May 31.

Photo by Kate Joyce

Enamored with the way architecture melds with nature, Luftwerk previously staged multimedia shows at two Frank Lloyd Wright homes, Robie House in 2010 and Fallingwater in 2011. According to Bachmeier, it was fascinating how they could create a new dialogue with the building, and when they started searching for their next project, Mies’s masterpiece, seemed like the natural next step. They even did a trial run in 2012 that proved the concept could transfer to the new building. If they hit their goal, they’ll be able to present the site during sunset, when the house is normally closed, and give architecture fans their own concert-grade light show.

“It’s an incredible canvas,” says Bachmeier. “It’s almost like it’s doing everything for us.”

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