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Rising Waters Are Spawning a New Breed of Cyborg Architecture

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Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, a masterpiece on the banks of the Fox River, has been hit by three different “100-year-floods” in the last 20 years. Now, preservationists are considering putting the home on permanent hydraulic jacks to lift it above floodwaters. The Farnsworth House would become a cyborg building—and it’s far from the only one.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, architecture critic Blair Kamin describes how the home’s owner, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is considering several ways to save the Farnsworth House. Mies, when he designed the home in the late 1940s, foresaw the flooding issue—that’s why he lifted the building up on steel columns that make it seem to “float” over the landscape. But that landscape is changing: The floods are coming more and more often, and the fragile building can’t withstand many more.

The simplest option: The building could be moved to higher ground. The problem there? Many historians argue it would defeat the careful siting of the structure around the wooded glen it sits inside. What about building up its foundation so it’s a bit higher above the floods? The same issue applies—and it’s very expensive, at $2.9 million. The third idea, and by far the most remarkable, would only cost a smidgen more.

Read the full article here.

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