Monday, May 4, 2009

A Wright weekend

A few years ago Sam and I decided to get caught up on some of the cinematic greats from before our time. We watched movies like Twelve Angry Men and Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Apocalypse Now. While some appealed to us a lot more than others, we generally found that most of them were hard to appreciate. Even highly acclaimed films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest just left us more stunned than anything. We grew up with such a different cinematic experience that it was very hard to grasp what had been so revolutionary about these classics.

So when we went to see some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural landmarks this weekend, I had was a little nervous that I would walk away feeling similarly disappointed by what has been hyped for decades. It was easy to imagine that what had been great in its time would no longer feel relevant, but fortunately I found this not to be the case at all.

First we went to see Kentuck Knob, a smaller residence built in the lush hills of Pennsylvania. It’s difficult to capture on camera because it’s got so much going on in so many places (plus we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside), but it was a beautiful and clever little house.

Wright was never formally trained in architecture which seems to have had two effects; first, he almost always underestimated how much steel was required to prevent nature from reclaiming his structures, and second, his ignorance of such facts allowed him to create uninhibitedly. Both of these effects are seen in the second house we visited, Fallingwater.

This house was such an amazing experience. One of the most stunning, yet destructive, features of this house is its relationship to the river. Millions of dollars have been spent to restore and reinforce what the water continues to break down.
There were so many interesting features like the low ceilings that fit the slightly shorter humans of the 1930's, the built-in furniture, and the rocks that moved from the outside of the house to the inside.
So fortunately this weekend turned out nothing like our movie experience. While the appeal of older films might be totally lost on us, I'm glad to say we thoroughly enjoyed our sampling of classic architecture.

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