I may not have enough time to complete this residential architecture photography bucket list by this Saturday’s rapture but I think I will take my chances and make my list anyway.  My bigger goal, beyond photographing the three residences on this list, is to continually hone my architectural photography skills to the point that I can turn a passion into a living.  But the three works of architecture on this list represent the best of the best to me.  The holy grail of design in architecture, if you will, that I would love to add to my photography portfolio.  Luckily this is not a difficult goal to accomplish.  It will just require some travel and time (not time travel, although that might make it more interesting).

Number Three: Philip Johnson’s Glass House

It is called The Glass House for a reason.  You might feel a bit exposed and on display living in what is essentially a glass box.  But the house is situated on its site in such a way that it is not subject to public view.  Philip Johnson designed the New Canaan, CT house in 1949 as his personal residence and lived there until his death in 2005.  The Glass House is minimalist modern architecture in its purest form and its literal transparency allows the site and building to co-exist, rather than one dominate over the other.  The house was heavily influenced by my number two house, Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, which at the time Johnson built his house, was still an unbuilt concept.  The similarity between the two is obvious although Johnson’s choice for no interior walls at all as well as each house’s site, which are integral parts of their overall design, make these two very unique and photo-worthy properties.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation maintains the house and offers tours.  There are several Johnson designed structure on the property in addition to The Glass House which I am sure would make for some fantastic architectural photography.

Number Two: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House

I love modern.  Modern architecture, modern design, modern.  Built in 1951 near Plano, IL, the Farnsworth House embodies the concept of modern residential architecture.  van der Rohe brought the movement that began with Europe’s Bauhaus to the Central United Sates through the Farnsworth House.  Glass and steel allow the house to be reduced to its simplest forms leaving a clean and transparent structure on a wooded, river-side site.  Although it may not be practical for most to live in, it it is a near perfect example of architecture as art.  It sits in the woods more like a sculpture than a residence.

The Farnsworth House is owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation which offers several different tour options (including a self guided tour, which I think is a great concept for photography without trying to keep up with a tour guide and group).  Photography does have some restrictions, like no tripods and the requirement of a special permit to photograph inside.   The photography permit gives you 20 minutes inside the house with your camera and will add on $30 to the price of the $20 ticket, but I wouldn’t think twice about paying it.  This is my Residential Architecture Photography Bucket List after all.,

Number One: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water

I have been in love with this house long before I developed a passion for photography.  (My passion for architecture goes back further.)  So the iconic Wright designed Falling Water in Pennsylvania is at the top of my list.  Built between 1936 and 1939 for the Kaufmann family the house is synonymous with Wright and his organic style of architecture.  Falling Water is integrated so well with its site along Bear Run Creek that it actually cantilevers over the falls making it one with the site.  For an architectural photographer I think this house pretty much has it all.  It is one-of-a-kind and sits in an environment that by itself is a fantastic photo opportunity.  The clean lines, natural materials and oneness with its environment, not to mention its mere legend in American architecture make Falling Water number one on my Residential Architecture Photography Bucket List.

The 2,885 square foot house cost $155,000 in 1938 and today is under the care of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.  It is open to the public for tours, one of which allows photography and one that does not. 

Leave a comment

Name: (Required)

E-mail: (Required)