Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Frank Lloyd Wright tour - Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater

This year's trip is brought to you by Frank Lloyd Wright. Ok, well not quite because we're paying for it. We decided it would be fun to break the MINI in with a road trip. And since both Dave and I think Frank Lloyd Wright is cool, what better idea than to go to Chicago via Southwestern Pennsylvania?

That's right, I am geographically challenged enough to believe my friend Jim who assured me it was only an hour and a half off course to go to Pittsburgh to see Fallingwater - FLW's most ambitious, possibly most insane, design. He wasn't wrong, except that Fallingwater is another hour and a half south east of Pittsburgh.

MINI(whose formal name is Ginger - pronounced Ginga) was up for it so why shouldn't I be?

Here's what we learned about FLW. He was arrogant, bossy and not very good at engineering. No building codes in 1933 apparently.

Because we were so close to another one of his homes, we started our tour with Kentuck Knob. This gorgeous home was built late in Wright's life and luckily by a builder who was smart enough to stand up to Wright about silly stuff like needing steel to hold up the roof. There is not one 90 degree angle in the house. If you are taller than 5'9, too bad for you. A couple of the hallways are barely passable if you've had a big meal.

The grounds offer stunning views of the Pennsylvania countryside. The current owners - a British Lord and Lady, have added a sculpture meadow that include works by artists from around the world and even a small section of the Berlin Wall.

Fallingwater is a whole other story. Built between 1936 and 39, it shows Wright's complete disregard for engineering. Make no mistake, everything about Fallingwater is amazing - including the fact it is still standing. It just appears from the hillside, while a gorgeous waterfall seems to pour from the home's ultra modern for 1937 living room.

Cantilevers are cool. Using enough steel, even cooler. Crazy I know, but maybe you need more than a cool design. Thankfully the Pennsylvania Conservancy has poured millions of dollars into fixing many of the issues and continues to look at ways to help ensure Fallingwater is around for many more years.

We came away from both tours shaking our heads. Wright was never formally trained as an architect. He made lots of mistakes. But more importantly he inspired many others - you can even see his influence in our 1963 Brady Bunch home. Sometimes it just comes down to accepting that even genius can be flawed.

Tomorrow we hit Oak Park to see the earliest of Wright's homes - the place where his career began and was almost ruined by a scandalous love affair (love it!).

Forgive me if the pictures suck... I'm loading right from the camera and this netbook is not the best.

Fallingwater  - you can almost see it reaching for the water

Kentuck Knob - a beautiful blend of man and nature.

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