As summer jobs go, the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus, had a pretty choice assignment over the past few months. The university's award-winning solar house, along with a dedicated cadre of human Hokie helpers, spent its days on the grounds of Farnsworth House, Mies van der Rohe’s architectural masterpiece in Plano, Ill.
The solar house, created by College of Architecture and Urban Studies students and faculty, now is set to return to the Blacksburg campus just in time for the University Open House on Nov. 12, 2011.
The ground-breaking home, which provides all the amenities of a modern home while drawing no outside electricity, has been well-traveled as an ambassador for Virginia Tech and alternative energy. After being featured in the Greenovation: Sustainable Communities exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., during fall 2009, the house traveled to Times Square in Manhattan, where it was featured on Good Morning America.
In June 2010, the solar house won the 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe competition in Madrid, Spain, triumphing over 16 international research universities.
Following this success, it returned to Blacksburg for a three-month stay on the university's Drillfield, where students, staff, faculty, alumni, and visitors had the opportunity to tour the home. CNN, ESPN, and the New York Times were among many news outlets that looked the solar house over and told the world about the energy-saving home.
When the house’s fall homecoming was over, the solar house headed to Chicago’s Millennium Park for the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Greenbuild Sustainability Conference in November 2010, where thousands of building industry professionals and curious visitors experienced the innovations of the home during tours.
Next it traveled to Farnsworth House. Farnsworth, completed in 1951 and an icon to architects and designers ever since, was a seminal inspiration for the Virginia Tech solar house's unique design. Van der Rohe’s use of the pavilion type architecture and continuous open space is reflected in the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus.
“Guests to Farnsworth House are treated to a double-dose of architecture spanning a 60-year gap in construction but with a great philosophical connectivity,” said Whitney French, executive director of Farnsworth House. “It’s really been a pleasure to share [the solar house] with our visitors from around the world.”
The presence of Virginia Tech's Lumenhaus brought record-breaking attendance to Farnsworth House, and many visitors appreciated the functionality and beauty of the Virginia Tech project, French said. “A common response from our visitors has been ‘the Farnsworth House is a sublime and incredible piece of architecture, but I could LIVE in [Virginia Tech's] Lumenhaus."
Back on campus in time for the University Open House, visitors will be able to tour the solar house. The tours will be lead by the faculty and students responsible for the design, construction, and all other facets of the project. It will be located off Perry Street behind Cowgill Hall on Virginia Tech's main campus in Blacksburg. At this new site, the dwelling will serve as a living laboratory as part of the Center for Design Research under the leadership of Joseph Wheeler, Robert Schubert, David Clark, and Robert Dunay.
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