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. (…)

Two weeks ago I had a conversation with two visitors, who both live near Elmhurst. We were sitting at the table in the large living space of the former Children’s wing of the McCormick House close to the windows facing the museum. The fact that the house had been turned 90 degrees after its relocation had significantly changed and intensified the sun exposure (south instead of west). The women commented on it, noting that they had never spent enough time in this house to notice the intense heat during noon. In this context one of them pointed out that some houses in her neighborhood now feature window models with strong reflective properties, which is meant to give residents more privacy, but which also impacts the streetscapes, visually and psychologically. This change in material seems to challenge both the name and notion of the picture window, which brings me back to Beatrix Colomina and her investigative equation of windows with communication and surveillance.