Monday 18 October 2010

Day 52 – ‘My Name is Art Vandelay. I'm an Architect’

Much like George Constanza on ‘Seinfeld’, Joe would always tell me he had once planned on being an architect…It seems a lot of people have the same idea, but then give up when they realize it’s not an easy career (Joe takes offence to that. He wasn’t ‘that great at algebra is all’). Few get to the heights of designing iconic buildings that’ll be recognised by everybody -- and even those that do are still usually nameless to us normal, non-architectural types. But I doubt there are many people that haven’t heard of Frank Lloyd Wright – probably the most famous architect in the world! (Joe counters with ‘What’s I.M. Pei? Chopped liver?!’)

Today we visited one of Wright’s most famous creations – Fallingwater; a home in Middle-of-Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Visiting it took some commitment on our part as there was no way to include it without an overnight stay. Adding a day, and a major detour, just to see a house is a bit extreme, but when weighing up the odds of us ever passing this way again it seemed stupid not to do it!

It’s setting in woodlands, back from the road, gives it a hidden, secluded feel and the conservation project has managed to build a pretty impressive visitors center without damaging the environment. Even this modern addition fits with Wright’s idea that Fallingwater should be built into the landscape, not on it… As it was a random Monday morning I had expected it to be just us on a lonely tour, but turns out October is their busiest month. I guess the fall colors really bring out the architect nuts!
Disappointingly you aren’t allowed to take photos inside, but the outside has a lot to offer aesthetically. Built in 1937, it was used as a home for the wealthy Kaufmann family until 1963, when the youngest Kaufmann (who had no heir) donated it to be a museum.
The beauty of the house really is how well everything blends together to fit with nature. Sitting atop a waterfall allows the relaxing sound of rushing water to be heard anytime a window is opened. Every wall and floor is made of rock, as if the house is part of the riverbed it’s connected to.
After the guided tour (which takes about an hour, so you get your money’s worth!), you can walk down a short nature path to see the house from its most iconic view – upstream. The Kaufmann’s had originally thought Fallingwater would be facing the waterfall, that way they would get a beautiful sight from their windows, but Wright had other plans. His vision was for the house to become one with the waterfall; a decision that would end up guaranteeing the project forever be one of architectures greatest achievements.
We left Pennsylvania behind for good and then set about taking on the Virginias. State number 35 (West Virginia) was surprisingly difficult to find. We were just using it as a ‘passing-through’ state, but it didn’t seem too happy about that and tried to hide its border-crossing. We thought as little of WV as it did of us and quickly bid it adieu, turning our noses up at it as we did. State number 36, Virginia, was an instant improvement – good, considering it’ll be our home for the next few days!
So, until tomorrow…

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