Windows on the south side of the McCormick House frame the gridded museum walls.
Beatrix Colomina in her book Domesticity at War (2007) quotes from Thomas Hine’s book Popolux (1996), where he observed that the largest windows in the houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Richard Neutra framed the most spectacular views of the landscape, while picture windows in developers’ houses would “look out on whatever happened to be outside.” When the McCormick House was moved from its large, wooded lot on 299 Prospect Ave to the open area at the north end of Wilder Park in Elmhurst in 1994, its windows then also looked out on whatever happened to be outside or has been built ever since: Beyond the park, the house’s north-facing windows now frame parking lots and office buildings located behind it. The Elmhurst library, which Mies van der Rohe’s grandson Dirk Lohan designed, is seen peripheral to the left and becomes more prominent after dark when it is illuminated. The windows on the south side face the museum’s lobby and tall side wall as well as David Wallace Haskins’ Sky Cube. (…)Read More
House card from Exquisite Corpse with sketch by Mies van der Rohe.
Elm paneling in the McCormick House’s current living room (former Children’s Wing)
After the McCormick House was moved to 150 S Cottage Hill Ave in 1994, its panels were reconfigured. The resulting layout in the living room of the former Children’s Wing now looks identical to one of Mies van der Rohe’s sketched interiors of a prefab steel house (1950s ?).
Within the context of this project and as the editor of Plot.online, I would like to point to Sebastian Mühl’s new contribution Notes on Utopia, History and Architectural Form: How does contemporary art remind us of the ruined utopias of the past? And how do the universalist claims of modernist architecture reappear in the light of contemporaneity? A post-utopian perspective is not retrogressive per se but rather holds true to the emancipatory claims of modernity by criticizing its problematic aspects.
– Sebastian Mühl
On several occasions I overheard people using the term artist-in-residence when describing this project. While I understand the reason behind it–it is an established description that can be easily communicated–I consider this term misleading. The Elmhurst Art Museum does not run an institutionally established artist-in-residence program. Instead, taking up residence in the McCormick House is a crucial part of my site-responsive concept that I specifically developed for this prototype by Mies van der Rohe after having been invited to do an exhibition here.
Contexts card from Exquisite Corpse
POEMS: People, objects, environments, messages, and services are the elements that can be selected and designed to provide a systemic offering. These elements help define a territory selected by the company (Source: IIT Institute of Design website, 2018 – This content is no longer available).
Isabella Gardner (right) playing chess at the Chicago Chess Club. Gardner lived in the McCormick House from 1952-1959. She was a poet and also worked as an editor for the Poetry Foundation, Chicago.
WUSTL Digital Gateway Image Collections & Exhibitions, accessed February 23, 2019. Photographer: Unknown.
From left: View into Rose’s room (Isabella Gardner’s daughter from her first marriage); open door next to it leads to Danny’s room (Isabella Gardner’s son from her second marriage); the room might have been shared with Robert H. McCormick’s sons (from his first marriage) when they visited their father; adjacent closed door indicates location of bathroom; small living room / dining room / play area; kitchen (1950s). Source: Hedrich Blessing Archive / Chicago Historical Society.
Children’s Wing of the McCormick House in the 1950s: Kitchen area with small living room / dining room / play area in the back. Behind the elm paneled wall with bookshelves is a storage space that could also be accessed from the outside. Source: Hedrich Blessing Archive / Chicago Historical Society.
Card players are using the Discourse and Ephemerals decks.
Exquisite Corpse was inspired by the French Surrealist game Cadavre Exquis (1925), in which players add to a drawing of a body without being able to see what others have contributed. In this project, the game focuses on architecture and has been modified into a card collection consisting of four sets, each of which relates to a different aspect. The first card set, HOUSE, depicts the McCormick House’s trajectory from a private residence to a museum space taking a non-linear approach. The second set, CONTEXTS, reflects on the social structures within which the architect, the house, and its residents have been—and continue to be—embedded. The third set, DISCOURSE, is composed of key words taken from the literature that addresses Mies van der Rohe’s body of work. The fourth set, EPHEMERALS, pays tribute to all things ambiguous or uncertain. (…) Read More
Claudia Weber, Table (2019), hollow-core door, 36″ x 80″ x 1.25″, balsa wood, black artist tape, changing prints on bond paper (34.5″ x 78.5″), plexiglass, trestles, chairs (old, new, bought and found).
Enlarged ad that was printed in Business Week to announce the April 1953 issue of House Beautiful magazine and its feature article “The threat to the next America” by editor Elizabeth Gordon. In this text, Gordon makes the claim that (European) Modernist architecture in general and Mies van der Rohe’s architecture more specifically is ‘foreign to native design,’ and detrimental to the American lifestyle.
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Elm paneling in the McCormick House (Photographer: Claudia Weber). Inserted photograph: Onyx wall in the Villa Tugendhat, Brno, Czech Republic (Photographer: David Židlický).
150 South Cottage Hill Ave, Elmhurst, IL 60126
Inspired by the transformation of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House from a private residence (1952–1991) to a museum space (since 1997), this project experiments with the question of what happens when both of these purposes—living and exhibiting—take place simultaneously: What becomes of life (and living) when it is put on display? And how is an exhibition concept shaped when it is pulled into the daily routines of life? How will the conditions of this specific house—Mies van der Rohe’s modernist design, the more recent infrastructural changes, and the museum’s policies related to the activities that can take place there—influence this experiment? And what effects or responses will the temporary occupation of this building elicit? To find out, I am moving into the former Children’s Wing of the house from February 16th to April 14th, 2019, during which time I am living, working and exhibiting there. This prolonged engagement with Mies van der Rohe’s prototype, including my ongoing research into the contexts of the house, builds the base from which I will reflect more broadly on the relationships between architecture, art, and life. (…)Read More
On June 23, 1952, reporters followed John and Philomena Dougherty (photo cropped) as the first family who moved into their new home in Levittown, PA. Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House was also built in 1952, but the houses’ programs and contexts couldn’t have been more different. The Levitt house was part of an affordable housing initiative on a massive scale by developer Levitt and Sons Inc., who had just built Levittown, NY, and continued to promote more traditional housing styles, creating starkly homogeneous towns from scratch. The McCormick House was built by an architect in a modernist style for a wealthy client as a prototype. But the McCormick House was also Mies van der Rohe’s attempt to develop a prefabricated structure that would allow the simultaneous construction of several units on dedicated lots in suburban areas. (…)Read More
These photographs of the former Children’s Wing of the McCormick House were taken in between exhibitions. The current layout differs significantly from Mies van der Rohe’s original floor plan from 1952. Several wood panels have been removed and others reconfigured. The photographs show clockwise from top left: the former kitchen area; the former living room / playroom / girl’s room / utility area; the hallway to the maid’s room; the boys’ room.
The house was sold in 1991 by its last occupants, Ray and Mary Ann Fick, to the Elmhurst Fine Arts and Civic Center Foundation, and in 1994 the steel structure was cut in half and each transported by truck from its original location at 299 Prospect Avenue to the new campus for the planned Elmhurst Art Museum (EAM) in Wilder Park.