A Short Summary

McCormick House / Exquisite Corpse, Claudia Weber, Mies van der Rohe

The McCormick House seen through the lens of Exquisite Corpse.

I collaborated with Other Forms on a small publication that brought the idea and documentation of the Exquisite Corpse cards together. It was available to visitors on the last weekend of my show.

Last Day

McCormick House, April weather, work table

My stay ends as it began. With snow. 

The Narrative of Looming Demolition

Response, Neil Bremer, director Elmhurst Art Museum, 2007, McCormick House

Letter sent to the former director of  the Elmhurst Art Museum

This letter was written by Ray Fick and family, who lived in the McCormick House between 1963-91, and who challenge a prevailing but misleading narrative. Read moreRead More

Interlude

Kate Park, McCormick House, textile design, interlude, Mies van der Rohe

Kate Park, #1 (2018/2019), cotton, wool, polyester, monofilament; shaped by washing processes (i.e. by machine and hand); size before treatment, H 29” x W 35”; clothing rack, powder coated metal (black), H 60” x L 14” x W 39.5”.

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Exquisite Corpse

Woman performing the Exquisite Corpse cards in front the camera that is taking time lapse images; McCormick House; salon; Elmhurst Art Museum

Visitor performs selected Exquisite Corpse cards for the camera, which I had set up earlier to take time lapse images 

Public-Private Zones

Dianne Harris Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America University of Minnesota Press, 2013

Privacy and the home

Diagram from Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America, by Dianne Harris, University of Minnesota Press, 2013. I will respond to this diagram with my own, one that represents the current public / private zones in the McCormick House. That diagram will need to introduce time as an additional segment (museum hours: 11am-5pm).

Nightly Illumination

Night, illumination, exposure, privacy, McCormick House, Elmhurst Art Museum

Outdoor lighting from the Elmhurst Art Museum illuminates the interior of the McCormick House.

Notes

This morning I bought a chocolate croissant. I left it in my backpack knowing that it otherwise would attract ants. I almost forgot about it. Only when I started to crave something sweet it came back to my mind. I opened the paper bag and took a bite. I then looked at the crust and the chocolate core and I thought I was hallucinating, seeing ants crawling in between the different layers of the croissant. It even seemed as if there was no longer a chocolate core just a dense army of interlocked ants that created the impression of one. It felt like a surreal scene, a psychological reading of sorts. My state of being awake and asleep in the house has become as seamless as the inside and outside of it, divided by just a layer of thin glass.

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse, game, rules, Claudia Weber, McCormick House

Cards played following the game structure #2 Resonating Corpse 

Birthday Celebration

Mies van der Rohe's birthday, my birthday, Black Forest Cake, McCromick House, celebration, SAIC students

Coffee and Cake 

A visit from SAIC students (Contemporary Practices) overlaps with my public Coffee and Cake event on the occasion of Mies van der Rohe’s and my shared birthday.

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse, Ephemerals Card, Claudia Weber, McCormick House

Ephemerals card

Seating Arrangement

Seating arrangement, butter board, McCormick House, Mies van der Rohe, Claudia Weber

During the day 

Seating arrangement, butter board, McCormick House, Mies van der Rohe, Claudia Weber

At night

Butter board, which is often used to build architectural models, provides the base for this seating arrangement, which circles around the Exquisite Corpse card set.

Bread for A Home / In A Museum

Bread, home-made, gift from a visitor, food, art, McCormick House

A museum visitor, with whom I had an extended conversation in the McCormick House, returns a week later with bread. He leaves it on my table. Only later do I learn that it is homemade.

A Bit of Bread (by Daniel Buren)
An empty museum or gallery means nothing, to the extent that it can at any time be transformed into a gym or baker’s, without changing what will be sold there, in terms of works of art in the future, since the social status will also have changed. Placing/exhibiting a work of art in a baker’s will in no way change the function of the aforementioned baker’s, which will never change the work of art into a bit of bread either. Read more Read More

Projects

Pyramid at Gizeh, Egypt, Metallurgical Research Building, IIT, Chicago, Mies van der Rohe, Illinois Institute of Technology

Loose book page, source unknown

Contextual Residue

Markers, Please do not touch, McCormick House, residue, floor messages

Traces from a former exhibition floor labeling.

The adhesive layer of the “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH” lettering, which was applied to the floor to inform about a sculptural object nearby, bond so well with the wooden floor’s top layer, that its message became etched into the floor’s surface, continuing its task even after it had been removed. 

Note

The house makes it difficult to get accustomed to it. It makes different noises every night. And each sound becomes amplified through the house’s structure and materials.

299 Prospect Ave

McCormick House, 299 Prospect Ave, garden, privacy, original location, backyard

Backyard, McCormick House.

The trees didn’t just provide privacy but also shade on the McCormick’s house original property (Landscape design: Alfred Caldwell). Still, all the curtains are drawn in the former Children’s wing.

Exquisite Corpse

Greenwald House Planning

Greenwald House, McCormick House, letter, correspondence, Mies van der Rohe, Gustave W. Iser

Letter from architect Gustave W. Iser to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and developer Herbert Greenwald

The letters show that drawings of  the McCormick House as well Gardner’s/McCormick’s experience with the cork floor played a role in the planning and construction process of the Greenwald House, which was built in Weston, Connecticut, in 1955 for Morris Greenwald, the brother of developer Herbert Greenwald. (Source: Richard Wolf)

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Kitchen

McCormick House, kitchen, 1965, Mies van der Rohe, 299 Prospect Ave

Kitchen seen from the entrance hall (1965).

This photo was taken during the tenure of the Fick family, the third and last family who lived in the house. Gardner and McCormick moved out in 1959. The Sladek family lived there from 1960-1963.

Notes

I had a truly inspiring meeting with Sarah Rogers Morris in the McCormick House. She is a brilliant observer. She introduced me to The Chicago Architects Oral History Project at the Art Institute of Chicago, where I found an interesting interview with Alfred Caldwell, in which he talks about IIT and Mies van der Rohe, beside many other topics.

Notes

I talk to a couple and we move around in the wing while discussing a range of topics. When they leave I overhear one of them say to the other “I feel like I just left someone’s home.”

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse, players, game, Claudia Weber, McCormick House, Mies van der Rohe

Activated cards

Diagonals

Frank Lloyd Wright calendar, Calendar, McCormick House, Claudia Weber, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave

Image Circulation

Shuffled contexts, McCormick House, King Kong; Screenshot: Claudia Weber

Screenshot

Future of the House

Diagram, future of house, McCormick House, Claudia Weber, Mies van der Rohe

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse, Sears, conformity, tests, aesthetics, Organization Man, Claudia Weber

Contexts card; text source: The Organization Man by William H. Whyte, p.181, 1960

From 1908 to 1940, Sears sold between 70,000 to 75,000 homes. The company designed 447 different house styles to fit the taste of home buyers across the country. From Craftsman to Cape Cods, they offered a custom home at budgets and sizes that could accommodate any size family. The majority of Sears homes were built in the Northeast and Midwest, with the largest grouping being in the city of Elgin, IL, where one community has more than 200 verified Sears homes.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/

Exquisite Corpse

Gardner, McCormick wedding announcement, 150 South Cottage Hill, McCormick House, Claudia Weber

Newspaper announcement of the Gardner / McCormick wedding paired with a shoe ad that features a girder to make its point. 

Unfocused Times

Post-it, Do not disturb, Claudia Weber, McCormick House, Focus

Note on closed door of the small living room / work space / bedroom.

I made the mistake of thinking that before 11am and after 5pm I would have time to focus. I didn’t take into account the cleaning of the museum at early hours, repair works, special visits, tours, evening events, etc. I also underestimated how much time a remote kitchen, bathroom, and shower would consume. In fact, my stay at the McCormick House is the opposite of an artist residency, which provides an environment where artists are shielded from daily chores and any interruption that would interfere with their work.

Table Cloth

Sketches for different table cloth, McCormick House, Claudia Weber, 150 South Cottage Hill, Elmhurst Art Museum

Table top / Bird view

Sketches for different interactions with The Current Threat ad, which was published in Business Week by House Beautiful editor Elizabeth Gordon.

Grid

Exquisite Corpse, Discourse Cards, Grid, Claudia Weber, McCormick House, Mies van der Rohe, MR Chair

Discourse cards from Exquisite Corpse laid out in a grid.

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Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse, Ephemerals Card, Claudia Weber, McCormick House

Ephemerals card; taking on a more relaxed position

Interlude

Kate Park, Clean Laundry #2, McCormick House

Kate Park, Clean Laundry #2 (2018 / 2019); size before treatment H 54” x W 20” x D 4”; industrially woven, shaped by wash processes (i.e. by machine and hand); colored papers, dimensions vary 

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Untitled

Claudia Weber, McCormick House, 150 South Cottage Hill, Standby Pieces

Claudia Weber, Untitled, temporary arrangement.

Claudia Weber, McCormick House, 150 South Cottage Hill, Standby Pieces

The Life of Birds

Birds, Bird Deaths, McCormick House, Isabella Gardner, Claudia Weber, Notes

Trying To See the Sun Set

Sunset, trees, winter sun, McCormick House, 90 degrees turned

Sunset

The windows of the McCormick House originally faced East and West. After the relocation, the house was turned 90 degrees. To be able to see the sunset, I need to squeeze against the windows to catch parts of it.

Kitchen Basics

Kitchen shelf, Claudia Weber, McCormick House, Mies van der Rohe, basics

Shelf design: Claudia Weber

Shelf carrying basics: cups, bowls, plates, induction plate, pots, water filter, coffee, tea, thermos, etc. Read More

Model of A Steel House

Developer Herbert Greenwald, architect Mies van der Rohe, and investor Robert H. McCormick. Photographer: Possibly Hedrich Blessing.

Floor plan, prefab housing, Mies van der Rohe

Floor plan of a proposed prefab steel house.

Mies On Prefabrication

Conversations with Mies van der Rohe, Prefab, McCormicxk House, Claudia Weber

On prefabrication

From the book Conversations with Mies van der Rohe, editor Moises Puente, 2006

House Details

Hinges, McCormick House, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave, Claudia Weber, Mies van der Rohe

Soss concealed hinges

Details from the McCormick House: Hinges of the door to former boys’ room. In the original layout, this door was used for the bathroom.

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Mornings

Looking through the space divider from the bedside with blinds still down. Claudia Weber, McCormick House

Morning view from bed.

Notes

It took me two weeks to feel comfortable leaving my home and be absent while others explore it.

Take-Out

Take-out, fortune cookies, McCormick House, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave

A few days ago I ordered take-out and found three fortune cookies in the bag. 

Replaced Vistas

Relocated McCormick House, replaced vistas, Claudia Weber, Mies van der Rohe, Prototype

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

Exquisite Corpse

Ephemeral card, Exquisite Corpse, Claudia Weber, McCormick House

Ephemerals card

Hallway of the McCormick House

Spectrogram of the white noise of the McCormick House's hallway. Olivia Block

Spectogram

White noise recorded and visualized by Olivia Block.

Message Board

Stainless Steel, Claudia Weber, McCormick House, Mies van der Rohe, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave

Notes, installation documentation and Exquisite Corpse cards displayed on the sculpture “Stainless Steel.” 

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse, Claudia Weber, Mies van der Rohe, sketch, collage, elm paneling, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave

House card; collage 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 girl’s bedroom panels were removed as well as the bathroom door and the separating wood panel wall of the storage space, which would have run parallel to the brick wall. The resulting layout in the large open space 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 ?).

Notes on Utopia, History and Architectural Form

Plot contribution by Sebastian Mühl

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

plot.online/plot/points/notes-on-utopia-history-and-architectural-form/

Exhibition Checklist 03/01

Updated checklist 03/01, McCormick House, Claudia Weber

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Table Configurations

Reconfigrued table, Claudia Weber, McCormick House, Elizabeth Gordon, House Beautiful, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave

Table reconfigurations

The table transforms into different constellations; its motif–The Threat…–moves through different types of layerings. 

The Artist Resides

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. 

People in the Park

People passing the McCormick House, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave

Instead of a private backyard, the north side of the house now faces the end part of Wilder Park.  

Exquisite Corpse

Context card from Exquisite Corpse, Claudia Weber, McCormick House, IIT, Institute of Design, POEMS, Acronym

Contexts card; Acronym

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).

Exquisite Corpse

Contexts card from Exquisite Corpse, Postcard by Gregory Corso, Isabella Gardner, Claudia Weber, McCormick House, Mies van der Rohe

Contexts card: Postcard from Gregory Corso to Isabella Gardner, 1958. Poetry collection The Happy Birthday of Death by Corso, 1960.

Chess Game

Isabella Gardner playing chess at Chicago Chess Club

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.

http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/items/show/8499

Exquisite Corpse

I greet you and all friends of the square.

Theo von Doesburg in a letter to Mies van der Rohe in the 1920s.

Extended Floor Plan

Extended floor plan of the McCormick House, Claudia Weber

The lack of a kitchen and a non-functioning bathroom requires me to expand the museum / residence floor plan to the main museum building and further into the town of Elmhurst. 

Daybed

Claudia Weber, Elm (2019), b&w photo printed on textile, aluminum rods, 33″ x 95″

Elm

McCormick House, Elm disease diagram, Claudia Weber

Exquisite Corpse

Contexts card

Excerpt from a speech that Buckminster Fuller gave to engineers joining Beechcraft in Wichita, Kansas, 1946; in Architecture in Motion by Robert Kronenburg, 2013

Kitchen Walks

Kitchen walks, McCormick House, repurposed darkroom developing tray

Repurposed darkroom developing tray to bring cups etc. from and to the kitchen.

Living Room

Living space, McCormick House, Mies van der Rohe, Claudia Weber, Experiment in Living, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave

Living room, dining room, playroom. Photograph: Jim Prinz.

1950s Interior in the Children’s Wing

1950s interior of Mies van der Rohe's McCormick House, Hedrich Blessing archive.

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.

Kitchen 1950s

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.

Exquisite Corpse / All Cards

House Cards 1-26 (See all cards)Read More

Exquisite Corpse / About

Active Exquisite Corpse Game, McCormick House, Claudia Weber

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

Reading List

McCormick House, reading list, Claudia Weber, Mies van der Rohe

A Friend’s Visit

Late breakfast, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave

Late Sunday breakfast at the McCormick House.

The Threat to the Next America

Printed out copy of the Elizabeth Gordon's article The Threat

See full article: Gordon-1953-Threat

Table Top

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.

Read more here:

https://www.150southcottagehillave.net/2019/02/21/test-image/

Architecture as Test Image

Elm paneling in the McCormick House (Photographer: Claudia Weber). Inserted photograph: Onyx wall in the Villa Tugendhat, Brno, Czech Republic (Photographer: David Židlický).

Claudia Weber
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

Former Kitchen Area

Former kitchen area, McCormick House, Claudia Weber, Stainless Steel, 30

Claudia Weber, Stainless Steel (2019), 30″ x 60″ x 2″, rare earth magnets, wires, dowel 

Living in the McCormick House (Former Children’s Wing)

Photographer: Jim Prinz

Exhibition Checklist 2/16

Checklist 2-16, Claudia Weber, McCormick House

Continues

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Exquisite Corpse

Claudia Weber, Exquisite Corpse: Card from the Ephemeral deck

Exquisite Corpse: Card from the Ephemerals deck

Horizontal Considerations

McCormick House, Mies van der Rohe, 150 South Cottage Hill Ave, bed

Installation Days

Moving into the McCormick House, Claudia Weber, compressed mattress

Mater/space/time relations: Compression/decompression and unrolling/rolling up as spatial practices and time consuming daily routines. 

Experiment in Living

McCormick House, Experiment in Living diagram, Claudia Weber

Move-in Day

Two vastly different houses from 1952; two move-ins 67 years apart. Claudia Weber, McCormick House

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

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