Photos: One Of Just 3 Modernist Mies Houses Ever Built Is Being Restored
By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 29, 2017 2:11PM
Famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe stuck primarily to the big stuff. But the modernist-pioneer did manage to design and build three modernist-style houses during his career. Two of them are right here in Chicago—and one of them is about to undergo an exciting major fix.
The McCormick House was built between 1951 and 1952, in west suburban Elmhurst. But some 45 years later, it gained an appendage, of sorts. The glassy, single-story home was attached in 1997 to the Elmhurst Museum of Art, connected via a long, narrow corridor.
The house at that time was being used primarily for administrative office space, so the walkable addition made sense at the time, Jenny Gibbs, executive director of the museum, told Chicagoist. But while the added-on corridor remained true to Mies' "universal space" aesthetic, "it didn't necessarily respect the integrity of the original structure," Gibbs said.
With those offices long since cleared out, a new restoration project will soon free McCormick from the retrofitted connective tissue, too. From there, its facade will be reinstated, small green space will be added that accentuates its residential design, and a carport will be reconstructed. In other words, it'll return to Mies' original vision.
"It's a very rare example of his modern style [in a home scale]...It's a really important example o Mies working on a residential scale, and it's one that hasn't really been appreciated—in part because you couldn't see it," Gibbs said.
The renderings above, from the Elmhurst Art Museum, plot out the new vision. A mix of past and recent photos in the gallery also illustrate just how well McCormick's interior is preserved.
Work gets underway in November, and the minor treasure of International Style is expected to be returned to its standalone glory in full by the end of the year, according to Gibbs. The project is being helmed by Heritage Architecture Studio, with Berglund Construction, who also completed the restoration of the Farnsworth House—that second, more famous Mies house in the Chicagoland area.
Check out a short documentary about Mies and the history of the McCormick House below to get your interest piqued.