Strange Weather II

Weather is a vehicle through which architecture can deal with the legacy of Modernism. A century of rigid formal orthodoxy and exuberant, naïve reliance on technology has negated thousands of years of climatic architectural lessons. We revere the spaces Modernism invented, and the contemporary freedom to invent is also a legacy of the revolution formed between the World Wars, but airtight steel and glass boxes stand as an affront to the 21st century need to address energy and environmental concerns.

Paralleling meteorological mapping, a thermographic device was transported to Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House in Plano, IL. This house, glass on all four sides a raised above the ground, is an essay of antipathy to weather. These conditions generate complex and dynamic thermal contour maps despite the architecture's orthodox rectilinearity. With the mappings complete, mathematical algorithms create a thermal inversion of the house, regulating the temperature throughout the house to a comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This process distorts the house, exploding it outwards to accommodate the contour shift. The resulting house thermally fulfills the promise of the original's image: one of uniformity, clarity and precision. The copy, however, loses the image of the original, becoming a twisted and warped shell in thermally perfect comfort.

Portable thermographic device at the Farnsworth House
Portable thermographic device at the Farnsworth House
Time lapse of thermal contours at the Farnsworth House, as collected over a late October day
Progressive thermal sections through the Farnsworth House
"Comfort algorithm" applied to the Farnsworth House. The thermal high point is reduced to 72ºF, causing a ripple effect as the house evens its temperature. The house enclosure is tied to the thermal contours; as the temperature levels, the house distorts
The new Farnsworth House, where the temperature-to-enclosure relationship is inverted.
The new Farnsworth House, transformed from a regular form with chaotic weather to the inverse: a thermally homogenous space with irregular form