Sentences on a Glass House and Other Sentences

Nora Wendl

Reviewed by Joanna Merwood-Salisbury

13 Apr 2015

1. This is the his­to­ry of a woman and her glass house. It is as true an account as I can devise.

2. Bet­ter known for the glass house that bears her name and the rumor that she was the jilt­ed lover of Mies van der Rohe, Dr. Edith B. Farnsworth was also a poet and a trans­la­tor of poetry.

3. Her last work was pub­lished in 1976, a year before her death. A final proof of this book-length Eng­lish trans­la­tion of works by Ital­ian poet Albi­no Pier­ro is held in her archive at the New­ber­ry Library. Farnsworth’s strikes and edits of the text are evi­dent in blue pen, her stut­ter­ing lines in each poem an indi­ca­tion of her advanced age and declin­ing health. On the cov­er page the title, OCCHIEL­LO, is crossed through and in all cap­i­tal let­ters NU BELLE FAT­TE is writ­ten — a last minute edit per­haps direct­ed by Farnsworth, but writ­ten in a younger and stronger hand. For rea­sons lost in his­to­ry, the title of this col­lec­tion was changed from occhiel­lo—the Ital­ian word for eye­let, a small hole or per­fo­ra­tion — to nu belle fat­te, Lucan­ian dialect for the Ital­ian una bel­la sto­ria, a beau­ti­ful sto­ry.

4. The col­lec­tion opens with this poem:
Per­haps you want me
and already you dream of me at night.
I too
begin to trem­ble with thirst
and I am afraid

I’d fling myself upon you
and every bit of you I’d suck;
your blood in one long gulp I’d drink
with­out ever draw­ing breath,
like a drunk­en man who latch­es on
a cracked and leak­ing cask,
long­ing to swim in the red flood,
to drown therein.

5. How does one make a his­to­ry from this?

6. The his­to­ry of the Farnsworth House, as told by his­to­ri­ans, ignores these poems, but reads like the plot of a nov­el. A pow­er­ful woman — a sin­gle, wealthy Chica­go-area physi­cian — meets an inter­na­tion­al­ly renowned mod­ern archi­tect at a din­ner par­ty, a man who has left his wife and daugh­ters to immi­grate to McCarthy-era Amer­i­ca from his native Ger­many. By the time dessert is served, she has hired him to design a week­end house in rur­al Illinois.

7. Some of this his­to­ry is drawn from her unpub­lished mem­oirs. I fill out all of the nec­es­sary forms to make an appoint­ment with each document.

You write about your life only if you are will­ing to show your­self while doing the liv­ing, she wrote.

set down syl­la­ble by syllable

whis­pers as real
as a hun­dred shouts
rad­i­cal, trau­mat­ic, high­ly orga­nized.

8. The sto­ry fol­lows that dur­ing the three-year design process, Mies and Farnsworth social­ized fre­quent­ly in Chica­go with mutu­al friends and acquain­tances. On week­ends, they made trips to the coun­try to sur­vey the idyl­lic strip of land she had pur­chased in the flood­plain of the Fox Riv­er just out­side of Plano, Illi­nois, pic­nick­ing with his employ­ees and stu­dents, mutu­al friends, archi­tects vis­it­ing from oth­er coun­tries. She became enam­ored of the archi­tect — indeed, the two are rumored by many sources to have been lovers, although there is no evi­dence of this in her memoirs. 

9. I myself have held pho­tographs that show them sit­ting togeth­er on a pic­nic blan­ket, sur­round­ed by friends. With­out a suit jack­et, the architect’s waist­line is expan­sive. Sit­ting on the ground in a skirt, her knees are scalpel sharp.

10. It shouldn’t be this way, but I’m afraid that this sto­ry is going to end bad­ly,” a friend warns her. I mark up a Xerox form and paper­clip this let­ter to it to remind myself of this fact.

11. The house that he promis­es to build her is ele­gant and entire­ly trans­par­ent and held above the ground on thin steel columns. It is unlike any oth­er. House Beau­ti­ful labels it a threat to democ­ra­cy. She sim­ply com­plains that she has nowhere to store her belong­ings. He tells her this is because it is beina­he nichts,’ almost noth­ing.

12. A lit­tle known fact of their rela­tion­ship is that while he was her archi­tect, she was his physi­cian. Stop read­ing for a moment. Imag­ine being the physi­cian of a man who fears death.

13. I want to know what I have to expect after death,” he once demand­ed of her. A man will always want to know about his hopes for immor­tal­i­ty. He won’t want to know that his fate is the same as the snowflakes on the win­dow, the salt crys­tals on the din­ner table.”
What sto­ry do you want? I ask out loud in the silence of the read­ing room.

14. Life pro­gress­es, inevitably, toward an end. And yet, it has super­nat­ur­al moments. One spring after­noon in 1950, they are joined by a British archi­tect on a vis­it to the house dur­ing construction.

The trees and mead­ows, as we saw them from our stone shelf, fad­ed into a vision and in the sky there float­ed a blush-pink celes­tial body like a pale pink moon, supreme­ly large. We stared at one anoth­er and at the big pink heav­en­ly body and at our altered world. You don’t imag­ine that we might have slipped out of orbit, do you, after so many years in the same one?” sug­gest­ed Mr. Dark, now quite sub­dued. The two hor­i­zon­tal planes of the unfin­ished build­ing float­ing over the mead­ow were uncan­ni­ly beautiful.

15. She records this event in a mat­ter-of-fact tone in her mem­oir: an unknown plan­et hov­ers so close to them that they begin to ques­tion the orbital align­ment of Earth’s tra­jec­to­ry. They find them­selves in a glass house at the begin­ning of what seems to be an unrav­el­ing of the order of all things in the uni­verse. A chain of events per­haps put in place by an unusu­al house.

16. Once the phe­nom­e­non is traced back to wild­fires in Cana­da (an expla­na­tion that, in truth, I do not ful­ly under­stand), she returns to her com­plaints about the house emerg­ing from the ground. There is already the local rumor that it is a tuber­cu­lo­sis sanitarium.

17. Things fall apart in the usu­al way. They sim­ply slip out of orbit.

18. She believes the archi­tect is cheat­ing her on the price of the house. She receives phone calls from the interns let­ting her know that the fur­ni­ture she nev­er request­ed, fur­ni­ture of the architect’s design, is going to be deliv­ered. She refus­es to accept it. She sends a let­ter to the architect’s office stat­ing that no fur­ther expens­es are to be approved on the con­struc­tion of the house.

19. Per­haps, as a man, he is not the clair­voy­ant prim­i­tive that I thought he was, but sim­ply cold­er and more cru­el an indi­vid­ual than any­body I have ever known. Per­haps it was nev­er a friend and a col­lab­o­ra­tor, so to speak, that he want­ed, but a dupe and a vic­tim. These are her last words on the subject.

20. His­tor­i­cal­ly, the cause of their rup­ture will be record­ed as heart­break. So to speak.

21. His­tor­i­cal­ly, she will be record­ed as ugly. Edith was no beau­ty.” But she was bril­liant, they will admit. Indeed, she had cul­ti­vat­ed her men­tal pow­ers in order to com­pen­sate for this unfor­tu­nate appear­ance. (It is said.)

22. His­to­ry, of course, is the process of con­struct­ing and interpreting.

23. Her first evening in the glass house unfold­ed like the still echo of a tem­ple. She had just one light bulb to drown out the moon. The phone rang: Are you down there alone in those cold mead­ows?” It was an uneasy night, she writes, with lit­tle expla­na­tion.

24. When I write this his­to­ry, why do I want to dis­miss the pos­si­bil­i­ty that these two fucked?

25. When I read this his­to­ry, why does every­one else enter­tain the pos­si­bil­i­ty that they did?

26. I won­der if, pri­vate­ly, she con­tin­ued to dwell on the super­nat­ur­al. Not in her mem­oirs — in which she records her com­plaints about the house and the archi­tect with needling pre­ci­sion, and the details of the rather bor­ing tri­al in which they sued each oth­er — but in her poet­ry. There are vol­umes and vol­umes of it, most of it labeled Uniden­ti­fied” in her archive, though her ini­tials appear at the top cor­ner of near­ly every type­script. In these poems, most of them nev­er pub­lished, she writes about space.

27. What is more super­nat­ur­al than space?
Set­tle the lit­tle slide upon the mov­ing stage
and light the sub­stage lamp.
(Space is dark, wind­less, leaf­less and unbloom­ing
in the micro-uni­verse,
where incan­des­cence is in hostage.)
Move the pre­ci­sion screws, adjust the planes,
open the shut­ter wide.
(The star­less infi­nite dark of micro-space
breaks into sun­less day,
and now you move beside
the radi­ant pro­to­plas­mic shore
of an unknown cobalt place).

28. –per­haps you saw all this, you too, she concludes.

29. When poets address you, they are (usu­al­ly) address­ing some amal­ga­ma­tion of for­mer loves. It is unknown to whom Dr. Farnsworth refers. It could be the archi­tect. She also kept black poo­dles, and was close with a man named Hugo. There was a Kather­ine in her 20s and a broth­er dis­owned by the fam­i­ly. There are many lost yous in a life. To move for­ward we must choose to sus­pend know­ing the mean­ing of you.

30. She fur­ther con­fus­es us by writ­ing that, some­times, you may become I.

31. Space is a strange word, pre­ced­ed chrono­log­i­cal­ly in archi­tec­tur­al dis­course by vol­ume and void. Space is a prop­er­ty of the mind, Adri­an Forty warns any­one who is try­ing to undress its ambi­gu­i­ties. To untan­gle its mean­ing would be to untan­gle some part of our­selves, some navel long since healed over. It is the appa­ra­tus through which we per­ceive the world.

32. Blame it on the Ger­man lan­guage. Space, raum, is mate­r­i­al enclo­sure, room, and philo­soph­i­cal con­cept. By mat­ter of fact, and with­out much work, Peter Collins tells us, a Ger­man speak­ing per­son under­stands room as a small por­tion of lim­it­less space.

33. Farnsworth sought to put limbs to this lim­it­less­ness, this slip­ping of room into space, out of orbit.
I looked about me
it seemed to me that a long hand
would stretch out from the ceil­ing
and draw me up into the dark
like a feath­er snatched by the wind.

By morn­ing
I had for­got­ten everything.

34. What if their dis­pute wasn’t sex­u­al, but philo­soph­i­cal? That she kept putting limbs on his vision of the infi­nite — in a world of eter­nal life beyond salt crys­tals, beyond snowflakes, she was shak­ing her night­gown at him, ask­ing for a draw­er in which to hide it.

35. What do you do with an archi­tect who fears death and draws floor plans from close read­ings of Thomas Aquinas?

36. Men who are reli­gious — about god, or space, or the infi­nite or some unholy hybrid of the three (which are maybe sim­ply one thing) — are also deeply con­flict­ed. Every­day, they spill beyond the perime­ters of their own bod­ies. We all do.

37. Try to hold space in your cupped hands. Close them and hold them up to the light. Peer into the navel that your thumbs have locked togeth­er to form. There, in the flesh col­ored light you can see space seep­ing out. It’s alright. We can’t talk about the infi­nite with­out drag­ging our bod­ies into it. And yet, it’s a place (?) where bod­ies do not belong.

38. The infi­nite is a being with­out con­straint. The archi­tect did not talk to the doc­tor about God direct­ly. Instead, he would sim­ply pose this ques­tion: Why tie one’s hands voluntarily?”

39. Who still feels any­thing of a wall, an open­ing?” Much is con­tained in a question.

40. I won­der if they weren’t just look­ing for two dif­fer­ent scales of the infi­nite — his expand­ing ever out­ward through a glass wall, toward the edge of the hori­zon and the lim­its of human per­cep­tion, hers expand­ing ever inward through the glass lens of a microscope. 

41. Con­struct­ing some rela­tion­ship between the two of them is dif­fi­cult. They were inti­mates, and as inti­mates the space between them was short, a shal­low chasm and like all shal­low chasms it con­tains a dearth of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. If only thou­sands of miles had sep­a­rat­ed them, per­haps they’d have nar­rat­ed it for us.

42. Or per­haps not. 

43. And so we are giv­en infi­nite possibilities. 

44. We must make mean­ing out of things. (Thomas Aquinas, 13th century)

45. An absence of nar­ra­tive is an absence of mean­ing. (Roland Barthes, 20th century)

46. Some days, the infi­nite sound­ed good. She could envi­sion end­less space beyond, and super­hu­man silences. She could hear the wind rustling among the leaves. The infi­nite per­vades me, she wrote in some fever­ish moment that you don’t read about in any books.

47. And yet, night drifts. Burn­ing in fall­en sen­tences.

48. And day­light is wave-like, shiv­er­ing and sin­u­ous on lumi­nous glass walls.

49. And my reflec­tion in the glass is poor com­pa­ny.

50. The infi­nite finds relief, she writes, in a wrist’s light turn­ing: the every­day and brief event is all things.

51. For every mea­sure of the infi­nite that we can see, there is more buried behind it. A com­put­er pro­gram­mer appears on my lap­top screen and sug­gests that the Inter­net you can view is like the tip of an ice­berg vis­i­ble above the sur­face of the ocean. Beneath that is most of the mass of that glacial body — the deep Inter­net — to which few have access.

52. When she says this I am remind­ed of the van­ish­ing point in Renais­sance paint­ings that would be con­cealed, often, by a paint­ed pan­el and a gold­en lock, because to look at the van­ish­ing point — even the human­ly con­struct­ed one — would be to try to look God square­ly in the eye.

53. Wikipedia is less shy about it and offers a few help­ful mind exer­cis­es to imag­ine the infi­nite—how deep is the sky?

54. This, of course, is just the tip of the ice­berg.

55. To the doc­tor, the man we see is only the man who is vis­i­ble.

56. Vis­i­bil­i­ty,
that exceed­ing­ly small seg­ment of the spec­trum
which lies between the ultra-vio­let and the infra-red.
The rest of his being
, she writes, recedes infi­nite­ly into the short­er
rays of
his deep
his uncon­scious
his past life
his predecessors

longer and longer waves of seed.

57. Per­haps there is an age at which one becomes invis­i­ble to men. Per­haps she crossed this hori­zon while they were work­ing on the house. I exper­i­ment with invis­i­bil­i­ty myself by walk­ing around my neigh­bor­hood in sweat­pants on Thurs­days. I do not mind reced­ing in this way. I return to myself.

58. Even an invis­i­ble woman is vis­i­ble behind glass. To a glass house, the world is endowed with eyes.

Did the riv­er see the house

the house where this body lives?

Who bet­ter than you knows
what I want?

The few small words which I address to you
seek to be new, but they are ancient.

59. Align­ing these poems with the his­to­ry of the house, with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of some rela­tion­ship between the client and the archi­tect, is dif­fi­cult to do. Poems have lit­tle incen­tive to be straightforward. 

60. Pla­to believed that poet­ry was dan­ger­ous because it was too easy to com­pose with­out knowl­edge of the truth.

61. But the true cor­rupt­ing pow­er of poet­ry resides in its charm,” Susan Stew­art writes, and the most dan­ger­ous aspect of charm is that it is unthought” — just a bright instinct with­in us.

62. It is unknown whether Dr. Farnsworth wrote her poems dur­ing her dialogs with the archi­tect, or after it all broke off. It is unknown whether allu­sions to you” are an indi­ca­tion of the archi­tect, or not, or oth­er lovers, or not. The con­nec­tion of these words to the his­to­ry of the house is ten­u­ous, though not entire­ly absent. It sim­ply recedes.

63. Reced­ing behind his­to­ry is poet­ry. First we were mute, then we stam­mered sound and song. This is long before we could thread togeth­er a story. 

64. In her work­ing files of the trans­la­tion of Pierro’s poems, Farnsworth makes a change to Per­haps You Want Me.” Above the title of the poem was typed Love Songs,” through which she makes two strikes. 

65. These are not love songs, there is no eye­let or open­ing to truth, this is sim­ply a story.

66. The fourth poem in her trans­la­tion of Pier­ro, OCCHIEL­LO NU BEL­LA FAT­TE, opens:
Come quick­ly.
You’ll find no splin­ters of glass
in the air
as you run to meet me.

67. Any love affair is a nar­ra­to­log­i­cal construction. 

68. And writ­ing archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ry is an inex­act art, a prob­lem of evidence. 

69. We could make mean­ing out of one of the few hand­writ­ten poems in Farnsworth’s archive, this one dat­ed two months after Mies’ death. It is evi­dent­ly a love poem.

It opens with

— — - you are my native tongue.
You are the trees among
whose leaves my eyes first opened are comforted.

It clos­es with

You are my land and sea, my language.

70. What wish is enact­ed, what desire is grat­i­fied,” asks Hay­den White, by the fan­ta­sy that real events are prop­er­ly rep­re­sent­ed when they can be shown to dis­play the for­mal coher­ence of a story?”

71. Desire for full­ness, con­ti­nu­ity, causal connections.

72. If any­thing resists the nar­ra­tive cloy of love and of his­to­ry, it is poet­ry. Poet­ry is made as much of lan­guage as of the absence of lan­guage. Poet­ry con­tains space: the gaps and paus­es that the nar­ra­tive struc­ture of his­to­ry can­not accommodate.

73. The fol­low­ing words can be lift­ed out of one of the last unpub­lished poems that she translated:

Weave, plot with your threads the stuff
that sound­ly in its weft is history

I could have made you so, I too.


Sen­tence #4: Albi­no Pier­ro, Per­haps you want me,” in Nu Belle Fat­te. Una Bel­la Sto­ria. A Beau­ti­ful Sto­ry, trans. Edith Farnsworth (Milano: All’Insgna del Pesce d’Oro, 1976), 43.

Sen­tences #7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 19, 23: Edith Farnsworth, Mem­oirs,” unpub­lished ms. in three note­books, Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go, unpag.

Sen­tence #21: Franz Schulze, Mies van der Rohe: A Crit­i­cal Biog­ra­phy (Chica­go: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 1985), 258.

Sen­tences #27, 28: Edith Farnsworth, Arse­nio,” 1969, unpub­lished poem, Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go. Excerpts.

Sen­tences #31, 32: Ref­er­ences are made to the chap­ter Space” in Adri­an Forty, Words and Build­ings (New York: Thames & Hud­son, Inc., 2000), 256 – 275.

Sen­tence #33: Albi­no Pier­ro, U Mamone,” trans. Edith Farnsworth, unpub­lished, no date. Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go, unpag. Excerpt.

Sen­tence #38: Attrib­uted to Mies van der Rohe.

Sen­tence #39: From the note­book of Mies, page 61, 62 (col­lec­tion of loose pages pre­served at the Mies van der Rohe Archive of the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art in New York), 19271928. Excerpt appears in Fritz Neumey­er, The Art­less Word, trans. Mark Jar­zombek (Cam­bridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1991), 289.

Sen­tence #46: Gia­co­mo Leop­ar­di, The Infi­nite,” 1819, trans. Edith Farnsworth, unpub­lished, no date. Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go, unpag. Excerpt.

Sen­tence #47: Edith Farnsworth, Night Drifts,” unpub­lished, no date. Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go, unpag. Excerpt.

Sen­tence #48: Edith Farnsworth, The Qual­i­ty is Lent,” unpub­lished, no date. Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go, unpag. Excerpt.

Sen­tence #50: Clemente Reb­o­ra, The Infi­nite Finds Relief,” trans. Edith Farnsworth, unpub­lished, no date. Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go, unpag. Excerpt.

Sen­tence #55, 56: Edith Farnsworth, The Poet and the Leop­ards,” in North­west­ern Tri­quar­ter­ly, Fall 1960, 7. Excerpt.

Sen­tence #58: Pier­ro Metapon­to, If in Par­adise You Would,” trans. Edith Farnsworth, unpub­lished, no date. Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go, unpag. Excerpt.

Sen­tence #61: Susan Stew­art, Poet­ry and the Fate of the Sens­es (Chica­go: Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2002), 112.

Sen­tence #66: Albi­no Pier­ro, Come Quick­ly,” in Nu Belle Fat­te. Una Bel­la Sto­ria. A Beau­ti­ful Sto­ry, trans. Edith Farnsworth (Milano: All’Insgna del Pesce d’Oro, 1976), 49.

Sen­tence #69: Edith Farnsworth, Arse­nio,” 1969, unpub­lished poem, Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go. Excerpts.

Sen­tence #70: Hay­den White, The Val­ue of Nar­ra­tiv­i­ty in the Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Real­i­ty,” Crit­i­cal Inquiry, Vol. 7, No. 1, On Nar­ra­tive (Autumn, 1980), 8.

Sen­tence #73: Clemente Reb­o­ra, Dis­persed Days,” trans. Edith Farnsworth, unpub­lished, no date. Farnsworth Col­lec­tion, New­ber­ry Library, Chica­go, unpag. Excerpt.

All images by Nora Wendl, orig­i­nal hand-draw­ing on Xerox­ed archival mate­r­i­al, 8.511 in. Archival mate­r­i­al repro­duced with per­mis­sion of The New­ber­ry Library and Mr. Fair­bank Carpenter.

Glass Doc (Perhaps), 2014.

Glass Doc (A woman), 2014

Glass Doc (The Infinite), 2014

Glass Doc (burning), 2014

Glass Doc (time and a direction), 2014

Glass Doc (walls), 2014

Glass Doc (is a memory), 2014

Glass Doc (a fine thing), 2014

Glass Doc (my language), 2014

Glass Doc (You are made), 2014

Glass Doc (life inside of life), 2014

Glass Doc (dark, windless, leafless and unblooming), 2014

Glass Doc (burning), 2014

Glass Doc (light), 2014

Glass Doc (the everyday and brief), 2014

Glass Doc (which is everything), 2014

Glass Doc (quickly), 2014

Glass Doc (truth, weave, plot), 2014


By Joan­na Merwood-Salisbury

A woman nev­er knows when the cur­tain has fall­en” – this epi­graph (Kather­ine Mans­field mis­quot­ing Oscar Wilde) neat­ly cap­tures the received view of Edith Farnsworth. A pathet­ic and venge­ful mid­dle-aged woman, she was unable to accept that her for­mer inti­ma­cy with the great archi­tect was over. Dis­mayed at becom­ing an actor on the stage of her own life, she angri­ly and pub­li­cal­ly reject­ed the house he had built for her. This nov­el­is­tic plot unfolds against a dis­turb­ing scenog­ra­phy: eter­nal­ly cap­tive in her glass cage, the cen­tral female fig­ure is sub­ject to the inescapable voyeurism of her neigh­bors and of crit­ics (Are you down there alone in those cold mead­ows?”). Nora Wendl is not the first to inter­ro­gate this sto­ry and its set­ting. While Alice T. Fried­man has sup­plied the author­i­ta­tive unpack­ing of the so-called failed romance” nar­ra­tive, Wendl moves beyond her to ques­tion the lim­i­ta­tions of archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ry writ­ing itself. Min­ing the con­tents of Farnsworth’s archive, as oth­er schol­ars have done, she con­structs a dif­fer­ent kind of text. Armed with the inti­mate and elu­sive lan­guage of per­son­al jour­nal entries and poet­ry, she sup­ple­ments tra­di­tion­al schol­ar­ship, sketch­ing out a more com­plex iden­ti­ty for Farnsworth, not just as jilt­ed lover, unhap­py inhab­i­tant of her famous house, but as a poet and trans­la­tor of poet­ry. What kind of evi­dence do these poems pro­vide? Like all poet­ry, they are resis­tant to log­ic. Their chrono­log­i­cal time, their pro­tag­o­nists, and to whom they are addressed exact­ly (if any­one), remain unknown. At the same time the rich­ness of their lan­guage opens them to spec­u­la­tion (What sto­ry do you want?”). As Wendl dis­cov­ers, Farnsworth’s writ­ing dwells on Miesian themes (win­dows, glass, the illu­sion of end­less space), pre­sent­ing them, as he did, in celes­tial and super­nat­ur­al terms: Space is dark, wind­less, leaf­less and unbloom­ing in the micro-uni­verse, where incan­des­cence is in hostage.” They probe her phys­i­cal inhab­i­ta­tion of the glass house and its wood­ed set­ting: Did the riv­er see the house – the house where this body lives?” And they describe the con­flict between the philo­soph­i­cal and the quo­tid­i­an, the archi­tec­tur­al and the domes­tic, on which her dis­pute with Mies turned: The infi­nite finds relief in a wrist’s light turn­ing: the every­day and brief event is all things.” These tex­tu­al frag­ments are, in their own way, as terse, elo­quent and oblique as those left behind by Mies him­self: The vis­i­ble is only the final step of an his­tor­i­cal form, its ful­fill­ment. Its true ful­fill­ment. Then it breaks off. And a new world aris­es.” Nei­ther the archi­tect nor his client left pub­lished auto­bi­ogra­phies. Both used lan­guage spar­ing­ly, favor­ing pri­va­cy over exposure.



Nora Wendl is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of archi­tec­ture at Port­land State Uni­ver­si­ty. She has pre­sent­ed, per­formed, and exhib­it­ed at venues rang­ing from Word­stock, Blue Sky, and the Cen­ter for Archi­tec­ture (Port­land, OR), to Seattle’s Pub­lic Library and Art Muse­um, West­brook Artist’s Site, and the Bien­nale di Venezia. Wendl’s writ­ing has been fea­tured in jour­nals such as Archi­tec­ture and Cul­ture, the Jour­nal of Archi­tec­tur­al Edu­ca­tion, On Site: Review, Stud­ies in the His­to­ry of Gar­dens and Designed Land­scapes, and Thresh­olds. In 2015, she and pho­tog­ra­ph­er Rylan Steele were final­ists for the Lange-Tay­lor Prize (Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Cen­ter for Doc­u­men­tary Stud­ies) for their col­lec­tion of poems and pho­tographs on the pseu­do-utopi­an town Ave Maria, FL. In 2012, she co-orga­nized the inter­na­tion­al design com­pe­ti­tion Pruitt Igoe Now with Michael R. Allen (Preser­va­tion Research Office), reflec­tions on which informed her essay Archi­tec­ture and Fic­tion” (306090 15, 2013). Wendl is co-edi­tor, with Isabelle Lor­ing Wal­lace, of Con­tem­po­rary Art about Archi­tec­ture: A Strange Util­i­ty (Ash­gate, 2013). She also serves on the edi­to­r­i­al board of the Jour­nal of Archi­tec­tur­al Edu­ca­tion. Email: nwendl@​unm.​edu

Joan­na Mer­wood-Sal­is­bury is an archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an spe­cial­iz­ing in nine­teenth and ear­ly-twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry archi­tec­ture and urban design in the Unit­ed States. Her inter­ests also include the his­to­ry of inte­ri­or design prac­tice and ped­a­go­gies. Mer­wood-Sal­is­bury has pub­lished wide­ly on the Chica­go School of archi­tec­ture, includ­ing her book Chica­go 1890: The Sky­scraper and the Mod­ern City (Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2009) and essays in Archi­tec­ture and Cap­i­tal­ism: 1845 to the Present (ed. Peg­gy Deam­er, Rout­ledge, 2014) and Chicago­isms: The City as Cat­a­lyst for Archi­tec­tur­al Spec­u­la­tion (ed. Alexan­der Eisen­schmidt and Jonathan Mekin­da, Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2014). Mer­wood-Sal­is­bury is Book Review Edi­tor (Amer­i­c­as) for the Jour­nal of the Soci­ety of Archi­tec­tur­al His­to­ri­ans and a mem­ber of the edi­to­r­i­al board of AA Files. Her cur­rent research focus­es on Union Square in New York City as a site of civic cel­e­bra­tions, com­mem­o­ra­tions, and demon­stra­tions from 1833 to the present. Her work has been sup­port­ed by grants from the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Human­i­ties and the Gra­ham Foun­da­tion. Email: Joanna.​Merwood-​Salisbury@​vuw.​ac.​nz