The Tugendhat House: Mies van der Rohe’s Czech Masterpiece
Photo Credit: T. Paul Young
Mies van der Rohe’s European residential masterpiece, built in 1930 in Brno, Czechoslovakia. The story of this house is told by a daughter of the family, art historian Daniella Hammer-Tugendhat and architects who have visited the house, which is now being restored.
Valdez Alaska: New Town
March 27, 1964, was Good Friday. In Valdez, the most northern ice-free port in Alaska, schoolchildren at the dock watched a ship unload cargo. Suddenly, at 5:36 pm, the second largest earthquake ever recorded in the world shook Prince William Sound. A great tsunami hit Valdez, the ship was dropped to the rocks hundreds of feet below, the dock was swept away, and several lives were lost. Valdez was rendered unstable and eventually had to be abandoned.
A planning firm in Indiana, headed by Paul Finfer, was called in to relocate the town on stable land determined by the Corps of Engineers several miles away on the bay. Finfer spent more than a year planning Valdez New Town, based on the Settlement Unit Plan he studied with his mentor, Ludwig Hilberseimer, professor alongside Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Insitute of Technology.
With Finfer’s photographs and interviews, this documentary traces the damage and recovery of property and lives, as the residents finally accept the planned town.
Another Lost and Found Program which examines the Settlement Unit Plan of Hilberseimer is Creating Community: Lafayette Park.
An early anthropology exhibit at the Field Museum created by a woman artist who traveled the world to find models. Archival photographs and film footage from her travels show her attempt to portray ” the races of mankind” in sculpture. Premiered at the Field Museum, presented as a Special Event, American Anthropology Association.
The inspiration for June Finfer’s play, The Glass House, this documentary traces the creation of one of the first great Modernist houses in the world, Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House.
Commissioned by a Chicago physician, Edith Farnsworth, this glass and steel rectangle set on a platform in rural Illinois has been visited by people from all over the world. Based on a plan Mies developed over many years, it was the focus of a legal battle between the architect and his client.
The house was bought from Dr. Farnsworth by an English nobleman, and used for several years as a retreat with his family. It is now a house museum owned by the State of Illinois, filled with mid-century modern Mies furniture.
It is still controversial, its riverside location prone to flooding. The documentary is an inquiry into questions raised by architecture – what must be sacrificed for originality and art?
Passionate Nature: Alfred Caldwell’s Chicago Parks
Alfred Caldwell was the last of the great prairie landscape architects of the 20th century, influenced by his mentor Jens Jensen and by Frank Lloyd Wright. He taught at IIT for many years, interpreting the values and curriculum of Mies van der Rohe to generations of students.
Greenbelt, MD, 1946
Green Towns USA: A New Deal
During the Depression, the Roosevelt Administration built experimental new towns to address the problems of urban sprawl and lack of affordable housing. The planning principles involved, the effectiveness of the solutions, and the state of the towns today are the subject of this documentary. Narration by Glory Southwind, past president of the National New Deal Preservation Association, who grew up in one of the towns.
Creating Community: Lafayette Park
Created by architect Mies van der Rohe, developer Herbert Greenwald, planner Ludwig Hilberseim and landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, Lafayette Park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places because of the excellence of its urban design and the quality of its community planning.
“You could reasonably say this would be a true example of new urbanism, build a village in a city and make it work.” -Jerry Herron, Director of American Studies, Wayne State University
In just a year and a half during the Depression, Alfred Caldwell designed and built the landscape and buildings at an existing park overlooking the Mississippi River, Eagle Point Park, using federal funds under the Works Progress Administration. Jens Jensen, in his letter to Dubuque recommending Alfred Caldwell, said he was a poet and a genius.
Sixty-four years later, Caldwell revisited the park and described how he built the park, training local men to be stonemasons and builders. The documentary reveals the lasting legacy of the park and the visitors who come to celebrate family, view the Mississippi, and enjoy nature.
Paul Finfer was a student of Mr. Caldwell at IIT. June Finfer completed this program in his memory.
Other programs about his work include Passionate Nature: The Chicago Parks of Alfred Caldwell, and Creating Community: Lafayette Park.