Brad Pitt, the world's most famous architecture fan, visited Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House this week, generating $60,000 for the National Trust Historic Site outside Plano, Ill.
"It's a very hard job, but it does have its perks," says Whitney French, historic site director. "Mr. Pitt was incredibly enjoyable, very interesting, very personable, very charismatic, very interested in architecture. Brad knew all about the house and its history and the saving of the house."
Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) completed the iconic, groundbreaking Farnsworth House in 1951. In 2003, the house's owner put it on the auction block. Fearing a developer would tear it down or build on the 58-acre site, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Landmarks Illinois raised $7.5 million to purchase the house, which is now open to the public.
In town with his wife, Angelina Jolie, who was filming a movie, Pitt selected the Farnsworth House as a site for a Japanese jean company's commercial.
"Brad was the one who wanted to see the Farnsworth House, and he was the one who wanted to shoot at the Farnsworth House," says David Bahlman, executive director of Landmarks Illinois, which operates the site along with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "The most exciting thing is that [the rental fee] cut our deficit for this year in half."
The Farnsworth House grounds are regularly rented for weddings, meetings, and film shoots. Country singer Kenny Chesney filmed a video there one night this year.
During the Aug. 19 and 20 shoot, Pitt found time to chat with site staff.
"We talked about his support of preservation and his love of architecture," French says.
Pitt and Jolie visited Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater last December. On Monday, Pitt and his son, Maddox, helicoptered to the house.
"He walked alone with him around the house, pointing out its features," French says. "That's a father sharing his passion with his son in a way that touches everyone's heart. It was a really poetic moment."