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Publisher's Summary

The true story of the intimate relationship that gave birth to the Farnsworth House, a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture - and disintegrated into a bitter feud over love, money, gender, and the very nature of art.

"An amazing story, brilliantly told." (Sebastian Smee, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic and author of The Art of Rivalry)

In 1945, Edith Farnsworth asked the German architect Mies van der Rohe, already renowned for his avant-garde buildings, to design a weekend home for her outside of Chicago. Edith was a woman ahead of her time - unmarried, she was a distinguished medical researcher, as well as an accomplished violinist, translator, and poet. The two quickly began spending weekends together, talking philosophy, Catholic mysticism, and, of course, architecture over wine-soaked picnic lunches. Their personal and professional collaboration would produce the Farnsworth House, one of the most important works of architecture of all time, a blindingly original structure made up almost entirely of glass and steel.

But the minimalist marvel, built in 1951, was plagued by cost overruns and a sudden chilling of the two friends' mutual affection. Though the building became world famous, Edith found it impossible to live in, because of its constant leaks, flooding, and complete lack of privacy. Alienated and aggrieved, she lent her name to a public campaign against Mies, cheered on by Frank Lloyd Wright. Mies, in turn, sued her for unpaid monies. The ensuing lengthy trial heard evidence of purported incompetence by an acclaimed architect, and allegations of psychological cruelty and emotional trauma. A commercial dispute litigated in a rural Illinois courthouse became a trial of modernist art and architecture itself.

Interweaving personal drama and cultural history, Alex Beam presents a stylish, enthralling narrative tapestry, illuminating the fascinating history behind one of the 20th-century's most beautiful and significant architectural projects.

©2020 Alex Beam (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"An amazing story, brilliantly told.... Alex Beam quickens your interest in every detail. His sensitive insights into architecture are matched by his feeling for psychology and for all the hilarious, petty, surprising minutiae of human relationships." (Sebastian Smee, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic and author of The Art of Rivalry)

"Alex Beam begins with a simple foundation - a man, a woman, and a house - out of which he constructs a nuanced biography of one of the twentieth century’s most fascinating architects, a portrait of his brilliant and pioneering patron, and a dramatic tale of the impassioned battle over a work of art that consumed them both. Broken Glass is compelling from the first page as it chronicles, in delicious and sometimes hilarious detail, the mere mortals behind a Modern masterpiece." (Mary Gabriel, author of Ninth Street Women)

"Just when we thought everything had been said...an impressively comprehensive and moving account of the flawed architect-client relationship (and probably more) that lead to the greatest architectural masterpiece of the twentieth century." (Reinier de Graaf, architect and author of Four Walls and a Roof)

What listeners say about Broken Glass

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Fun and Information Listen

Really liked this one. For anyone that enjoys biographs and architecture this is a must listen. The historical facts and info on other architects that influenced and imitated van der Rohe was very nicely woven into the story. The conflict between Farnsworth and van der Rohe was very interesting as well. How their relationship began so strong but ultimately desolved as it did was what made this story all the more engrossing.

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Great Read

A wonderful story behind one of the world's most celebrated and reviewed homes. Very well narrated as well.

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Well read. Comprehensive history of house and protagonists

This is the most well-read book that I have heard yet. Kimberly Farr has a clear, pleasing and warm delivery.

This book offers a comprehensive history of the house, its patron and architect. Places the building and builders in context.