Accommodating Spaces

Two modern homes with vastly different personalities show that a lot can be made of a simple rectangle

Modern houses are often dismissed as little more than boxes, simple to the point of sacrifice. But as recent back-to-back trips to Chicago and Copenhagen underscored, a lot can be done architecturally with a box. It was purely chance that I ended up visiting Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1951) a couple of weeks before Hanne Kjærholm gave me a tour of the 1962 home that she designed for herself, her husband Poul, and their children. Aside from a few superficial similarities—the first is situated on the Fox River, the latter on the Oresund; both feature structural innovations and incorporate elements meant for other applications—the two have little in common. Still, I couldn’t help but compare them, particularly how they accommodate life within the box.

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