• Edith Farnsworth Reconsidered
    Nora Wendl and Robert Kleinschmidt
    Scott Mehaffey
    Farnsworth House, Plano, 2020–2021
    National Trust for Historic Preservation-Farnsworth House

View of Farnsworth House, screened porch looking northwest, ca. 1955. Courtesy of Farnsworth House Archives.

On the 70th anniversary of the groundbreaking of one of the most iconic modern buildings in the world, the Farnsworth House presents Edith Farnsworth Reconsidered. This new installation interprets for the first time the interior as Edith Farnsworth would have occupied the space during the 1950s and explores the life and legacy of the fascinating client behind this world-renowned house that bears her name. Since opening for public tours in 2004, the house has been presented as it was purchased from the second owner, Peter Palumbo. This representation of the home examines the divergences between the architect and occupants’ respective visions for the space, explores the ways in which modernism was domesticated as much by clients and residents as by architects and designers, and furthers a more nuanced understanding of design and its relationship to gender.

Nora Wendl, design and content lead, is an artist, writer, and educator who is trained as an architect. Her work encompasses the practices of architecture, visual art, and creative nonfiction. She is currently at work as an architectural historian using strategies of exhibition, performance art, visual art, and creative nonfiction in order to amplify the lives and narratives of women who have been suppressed and misrepresented within the history of the built environment. She is an associate professor of architecture at the University of New Mexico and holds two degrees—a master’s of architecture (2006) and bachelor’s of architecture (2003)—from Iowa State University. She is currently completing a biographical history of Edith Farnsworth and the Farnsworth House.

Robert Kleinschmidt, design lead, is founding design principal of RDK Design in Chicago, where he is involved in each commission undertaken by the firm. He received his bachelor’s of architecture from the University of Illinois and a master’s of architecture from Columbia University. Prior to forming his own firm, he was design principal for Powell/Kleinschmidt, also in Chicago. Powell/Kleinschmidt was a celebrated interior architecture firm from the late 1970s–late 2000s. After closing the firm in 2009, Kleinschmidt formed RDK Design which continues a highly-refined interpretation of the core principles of modernism. Most recently, RDK Design was responsible for a period furnishing exhibition of Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House in Elmhurst, IL.

Scott Mehaffey, committee member and project coordinator, is executive director of the Farnsworth House, owned and operated by the National Trust. Mehaffey received his bachelor’s of landscape architecture from the University of Illinois and master’s from Dominican University. Prior to joining the National Trust, Mehaffey worked in various administrative capacities at leading landscape architecture firms in the Chicago area, as well as the City of Chicago and The Morton Arboretum, where he helped plan and implement many interior and exterior exhibitions. He is also an adjunct professor in the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Jonathan Mekinda, committee member and modern design historian, is assistant professor in the department of art history and in the School of Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Mekinda has organized and presented at numerous conferences including Institute of Contemporary Art, International Committee for Design History and Design Studies, and the Society of Architectural Historians. He has written for the Journal of Architectural Education, Journal of Design History, and Design Issues. He is coeditor of Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

Michelangelo Sabatino, committee member and modern design historian, currently holds the Rowe Family College of Architecture Endowed Chair and is the inaugural John Vinci Distinguished Research Fellow College of Architecture, at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). He earned a Laurea in Architecture at the Università di IUAV (Venice) and a doctorate in the department of fine art, University of Toronto. He taught history and theory of architecture at Yale University and the University of Houston before his appointment to IIT.

Carrie Villar, committee member and collections coordinator, is the National Trust’s John and Neville Bryan Associate Director of Museum Collections, where she oversees the museum collections across the portfolio of National Trust Historic Sites. She has curated exhibitions including The Ghost Fleet of the Potomac and Welcome to Woodlawn at National Trust Historic Sites. Villar holds a bachelor’s in history, Spanish, and political science, a master’s in history and museum studies from the University of Delaware, and a nonprofit management executive certificate from Georgetown University. Before joining the National Trust, Villar was a Senior Curator at The History Factory.

Cynthia Vranas Olsen, committee member and modernist interiors expert, is director of the Mies van der Rohe Society and director of external affairs for the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Vranas Olsen holds a bachelor's of architecture from IIT and was formerly an instructor and associate dean of education at Harrington Institute of Design in Chicago. A partner in Olsen-Vranas Studio with husband and architect Keith Olsen, Vranas Olsen was an interior architect and designer at Murphy/Jahn and has taught historic Midcentury Interiors at IIT College of Architecture.

Ashley Wilson, committee member and architect, is the National Trust’s Graham Gund Architect where she oversees the ongoing maintenance and rehabilitation of Farnsworth House and 27 other National Trust Historic Sites. Before joining the Trust, she was a founding and tenured professor at Clemson University/College of Charleston Graduate Program for Historic Preservation. Prior to that, she was in private practice at Oehrlein & Associates Architects in Washington, DC. She received a bachelor's of architecture from the University of Virginia and was assistant architect for Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village, before receiving a master's of architecture from the University of Notre Dame.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded nonprofit organization, founded in 1949, that works to protect significant places representing our diverse cultural experience by taking direct action and inspiring broad public support. This mission is fulfilled partly through the stewardship of a national portfolio of 28 historic sites, including the Farnsworth House in Plano, IL.