Maggie Stapper is a third year Architecture student at Auburn University. Her work “Opposing Views” was awarded 3rd Place in the Alabama Forestry Association Student Design Competition, Spring 2016.
The objective of the competition was to design a visitor’s center for the landmark Farnsworth House, designed by Mies van der Rohe. Because the house has an extroverted nature, an internalized visitor center was conceptualized resulting in a courtyard parti with a central opening to the sky in direct ratio to the Farnsworth’s footprint. To create a truly introverted space, the only openings to the exterior are translucent clerestories, along with the skylights at the perimeter where roof form meets massive walls. Light is used to indicate public space in contrast to the more secluded private administration and storage areas. To maximize this lighting effect, the walls taper upwards allowing light to wash down into the interior. All service areas are nestled into the mass of concrete in order to diminish their presence in the public spaces.
Once inside the visitor center, the only view provided is that of the sky and tree canopies above. This contradicts the Farnsworth’s panoramic views of the surrounding forest. Mies designed the house to frame views of exactly one-third land, one-third water, and one-third sky. For this reason, the house will be elevated via hydraulic lift When flooding occurs. If the whole point of the house is to capture a very calculated view, then it should not be altered.