West suburbsElmhurst

A Mies van der Rohe subdivision prototype in Elmhurst

by Joe Zekas on 8/31/12

The Robert McCormick House in Elmhurst is one of only three single-family residences designed by Mies van der Rohe in the United States. Built in 1952, it’s celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, but not as a home. In 1994 it was taken apart and reassembled at Wilder Park in Elmhurst as part of the Elmhurst Art Museum.

Architect Avram Lothan narrates the above documentary on the home. The video, which was commissioned by the Elmhurst Art Museum, includes an interview with Robert McCormick, whose family owned the land on which Mies’ 860-880 Lake Shore Drive was built.

While McCormick and Mies watched the steel frame of 860-880 rising along Lake Shore Drive, Mies said “why must we do it like this [gesturing vertically]? Why can’t we do it like this [gesturing horizontally]?” McCormick responded: “I need a house. Why don’t we? And this is the house that developed from that conversation.”

The McCormick House was also a trial to see whether the steel and glass forms of Mies’ skyscrapers could be adapted to build residential subdivisions. The short answer: people’s taste in single-family homes didn’t adapt to Mies’ forms.

Watch the video for tons of great images, the fascinating story of the home, and a perspective on the times and concepts that spawned Mies’ work.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

SheridanB August 31, 2012 at 4:00 PM

I went while it was under construction (the museum, not the original house), quite interesting. They were ditching some pieces of the original construction…

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