Monday, November 01, 2010

Englishman Hill

by Steph

Yesterday we decided to get a little cultural by making a stop at Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘masterpiece’ (as they describe it in the Lonely Planet), Fallingwater. This was a house designed in 1939, around the middle of FLW’s career, as a summer retreat outside of Pittsburgh for the Kaufmann family, who owned the biggest department store in the city.


We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so you’ll just have to imagine that it was totally rad. I think that’s how they describe it in the architecture books, anyway. Knowing nothing about FLW, or much about architecture, for that matter, The Hairy One and I learned a few things:

  • FLW didn’t like high ceilings. He felt that a low ceiling, built ‘to human scale’, encouraged the eye to look outward into the landscape rather than up into the room.
  • He integrated the indoors and outdoors as much as possible. Fallingwater was built over a waterfall (surprise!) with a nifty little glass hatch in the living room down to the water below.
  • He wouldn’t allow the stone for the flooring to be hewn flat. Instead, he kept it natural, which gives the effect of walking over rocks in the landscape.
  • FLW didn’t always think about how practical his designs were. He was more interested in how things looked than in how they worked on a day to day basis, like the enormous cast iron kettle he built into the fireplace, which in theory could hold gallons of mulled wine or something for a party, but which in fact took more than 14 hours to heat up.
  • Our man was a bit of a stubborn fellow. He didn’t think it was his job to seek out work, or to design to a client’s brief. Instead, he waited for work to come to him, and assumed that any customer was interested in hiring him for his artistic vision. As a result, he didn’t work for 7 years before the Kaufmanns finally commissioned him to build Fallingwater.

IMG_6049In some ways, it was a modest house—it was only a 4 bedroom place with an open plan kitchen/living area—but it felt more grand than that, like the whole of the waterfall and surrounding hillsides were part of the building. If you ever find yourself near Pittsburgh (and why would you?), it’s worth a visit.


After Fallingwater we found ourselves searching for a place to stay in Pittsburgh for the night. Unfortunately, no motels fit our ‘room in exchange for our sparkling company’ criteria, so we camped out in a functional but charmless site near the highway. Along the way we had to take a quick break for this photo op:


We entertained ourselves for the evening by building a fire and perfecting the art of making pizza in a camp stove. The first two were charred on bottom, but by the third try, it wasn’t half bad.


I also made some apple cheddar biscuits (in the American sense of the word), which turned out very nicely indeed and convinced Steve that cooked apple isn’t so bad after all. By the time we’d finished stuffing our faces, it had grown very cold indeed, and my feet were frozen. We slept well under the mighty duvet, despite 35F/ 1C temperatures outside…


  1. Very interesting, there are lots of pics of Fallingwater house interior on google of course, looks great.
    Pleased to hear Steve's eating apples.
    Your temperature make England's 15C look balmy!

  2. the cookings coming along, i was trying to think of something remedial for the oven, but i think ure getting the swing of it!

    keep it up, its very entertaining to see what you're up to, (although i would rather be with you, but it is a honeymoon, so would feel a bit of a gooseberry ; )

    and you must keep the beard going, until the end, mines still going strong since the wedding, i'm sure if i dig around, there maybe some lobster still in there!

    thanks for the card btw

    keep on trucking