Option B: Relocate

Option B: Relocate

Relocate the house to high ground on the site or move to a newly filled portion of the site close to the original location.

From the Silman Report

Option B will involve exposing and removing the existing foundations and temporarily jacking and relocating the entire structure. The house will still need to be lifted and transported off its current spot, but it would be relocated to a portion of site already elevated above the hazardous flood levels.


VIDEO: Robert Silman Describes Option B – Relocate

Although this option works with the existing landscape of the site, it requires two sections of excavation and re-grading: both at the current building footprint and at the new site. New foundations are needed in this option as well to ensure an even bearing stratum beneath the building, once relocated. The central utility shaft will also be affected and potentially replaced.

The major disadvantage of this option is that to have enough height to be out of the flood plain, the house would need to be relocated to the far north edge of the site. Relocating the house to a portion of land at high ground completely disassociates the house from the Fox River – a major component to the building’s design. Furthermore, it relocates the building closer to the surrounding roads, exposing occupants to noise pollution and contradicting the very living experience for which Mies designed. RSA considered a second option of relocating the house to a newly filled portion of the site closer to the original location. This option is similar to Option A in terms of scope of work, but it alters the structure’s interaction with the landscape even more significantly than the first option. Since Option A would keep the house in its original location on site, it would be more advantageous to pursue than to study this second relocation option.


  1. tim van allen March 7, 2016 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    The recent relocation of the FLW Bachman House to the stunning site at Crystal Bridges (Bentonville, AR) would lead one to believe that relocation can be a very good alternative to repetitive destruction

  2. TC Stokes June 22, 2015 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Think with 50+ acres there should be a safe represenitive alternative siting to save the house which is more historical than the site….could consider a ghost structure in the original location similar to Robert Venturi’s “Ghost Structure” of Benjamin Franklin’s house in Philadelphia or a chain link “Ghost House” version as done by Philip Johnson that could be visited to understand the original context.

  3. Jeff Samudio January 6, 2015 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Active systems don’t guarantee sustainability! Passive solutions provide maintainability!

    An additive system physically moving the structure will become married to the Resource. Does the Historical Significance at some time in the future then change? Does the added mechanical system become an historic feature that must be maintained to reflect its period of significance?

    All solutions require the Resource to be moved, so context will be disturbed and physically altered.

    A compromise to maintain the significant relationship of the structure to the River, will in all solutions lead to a change in elevation of the physical structure. Therefore, its wisest to choose a route that accepts the reality that elevation WILL change on a temporary or permanent basis. With that reality accepted, the notion of “risking” future sustainability to an active Mechanical System, susceptible to failure, would not be responsible. Assuring conveyance of a robust interpretation preamble for all visitors about dangers posed to the Resource in its previous Cultural Landscape, will do much to mitigate the negative impact of changing site context dynamics. Understanding the necessity for real long term sustainability will convey the wisdom of regrading the site as the most durable route to real protection for the ages.

  4. Thomas October 7, 2014 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    The temples at Abu Simbel, dating back to 13th century BC, were relocated in 1968 to higher ground. It would be far less dramatic to simply move the house to safer ground surrounded by nature then to affect change on both the view and the location. Something will be lost regardless but limiting as many of the things that will be changed is my vote.

  5. Susan Highsmith September 8, 2014 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    Move the house. As records show Van Der Rohe miscalculated water levels at high flood, building 5′ supports he felt would keep the house above water level. He never intended the house to be inundated. So, at this point, seems placing it in an appropriate setting where it should remain high and dry as originally intended would be truest to the architect and his original client’s intentions.

  6. Roderick Scott September 2, 2014 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    This is the most affordable and least technical option. If we look at historic resources and climate change, we can see that this is one of many important historic sites that will have to adapt to climate changes. Flood hazard mitigation will in fact be a historic context for those buildings moved or elevated. Some have said it will loose historic designation, but I remind those folks that the Cape Hatteras Light and Keepers house were relocated and are still listed as National Historic Landmarks.

  7. Jonathan Choe April 30, 2014 at 12:38 am - Reply

    If it’s really necessary to move the house, why not move it to a completely different site?

    If the house is shifted to the northern portion of the site, the original context has essentially already been erased. Why not move the house to a more accessible site where this significant work could engage better with the architectural community of the residents and visitors to the city of Chicago, who may be interested in visiting the Farnsworth House, but unable to make the pilgrimage due to distance and lack of transportation options.

    To simulate the original natural waterfront site, the house could be used as a part of the redevelopment plans for Northerly Island, or Mies’ architectural legacy at the IIT campus could be enhanced by moving the house to the empty field just north of Crown Hall. It could be used to revitalize an existing park- Jackson, Washington, Grant, or Lincoln Park? Imagine the potential for architectural dialogue if the Farnsworth House sat across the street from Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park- there’s an empty field there!

    If the house can’t be maintained at its current position, macro-scale design thinking about the future opportunities for the Farnsworth House could improve the efficacy of its ongoing influence on the field of architecture and allow the house to engage and enrich the architectural discourse and legacy of Chicago, rather than gingerly imposing stop-gap measures to maintain a rapidly disintegrating status-quo.

    • Bill McGrath May 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Context is everything. It would be easier to move Monet’s workshop and gardens closer to Paris as well. Perhaps this is one of those times where people just have to expend more energy and time to see something important. Not having hundreds of viewers walking round and round the site, with the Chicago skyline in the visual background and the tourist’s cigarette boats in the audio background is the only way to access what the intention of the design was in the first place. Why have docents say “Now, just imagine…” at every other step of a tour?

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