All eyes will be on Plano, Illinois, the small town nearly 60 miles west of the city that’s home to the Miesian masterpiece Farnsworth House, for the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial. Artists Iker Gil and Luftwerk duo, Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, are teaming up to shed new light on the pioneering international style house, lining its underlying geometries with beams of neon laser light. The laser installation, Geometry of Light, will be open to the public from October 11th to 13th for an evening walk-through like no other.
Fitted out for a tech- and social media-savvy audience, the neon-saturated installation is sure to bring attention to the Fox River site, as the home will become the next in a series of architectural icons to get the Luftwerk treatment. In 2011, the collective brought a prototype of Geometry of Light to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater for its 75th anniversary. That installation was named INsite, and the artists collaborated with video designer Liviu Pasare and composer Owen Clayton Condon to create an audiovisual study of the house. INsite focused on outlining the building’s geometric components and the experience of moving through the lines of the space. An INsite-style study was also conducted independently for the Farnsworth house in 2014.
However, the latest iteration of Luftwerk’s fluorescent vision debuted this past February as Geometry of Light was applied to another famous Mies project, the Barcelona Pavilion. Both the Pavilion and the Farnsworth House, with their open, overtly modernist massings, appear to be viewed through an x-ray after Luftwerk’s illumination, exposing the bones of the building from a fresh new perspective. The 2019 Farnsworth exhibit will also be enhanced by sound, as a “minimalist” soundtrack will be pumped through the home in sync with the visuals.
The installation is a notable part of a wave of recent publicity for the Farnsworth House, as effort mounts to attract attention towards its preservation. Situated on the Fox River floodplain, the property of the modernist monument has been inundated by water several times since 2013, and a debate has erupted amongst preservationists and the home’s current owner over whether to protect the house or to take more drastic measures: relocation. Even though the house sits on stilts, the swampy site presents structural dangers and the stilts may not prove high enough as the flooding is predicted to worsen.
“Such are the choices in an era when disastrous ‘100-year floods’ seem to occur every few years,” a spokesperson for The National Trust for Historic Preservation, who have owned and operated the structure since 2003, told the Chicago Tribune. The group even suggested the installation of hydraulic jacks programmed to physically elevate the base of the house when floodwaters rise.
Though the Mies-designed home is about an hour-and-a-half drive from the Chicago Biennial’s core, Luftwerk’s eye-catching installation is sure to saturate the social media airwaves come this fall.