November 7, 2007

Pennsylvania - Ohiopyle & Frank Lloyd Wright

We continue to be surprised by areas of the country that we thought of as very crowded or comercial, or industrial that turn out to be an example of pristene beauty. Well yes, as you suspect, this quiet corner of southwest Pennsylvania was no exception. The moment we pulled into our campsite the Ohiopyle State Park, our eyes were treated to a beautiful wooded surrounding, filled with fall colors, and only a couple of other campers in sight.

The park is situated within an area dotted with steep hills and beautiful hardwoods. Our campsite overlooks a huge wooded ravine and has a bike/foot trail leading down to the Yough River Trail.

We did a 22 mile bike ride our second day on the Youghohiogheny River Trail. It runs along the Yough R and Kim & I both agreed it's the prettiest and most interesting bike trail we have ever been on. It even beat the Virginia Creeper.

After a rather steep decline from the campground to the trail, we immediately encountered a high, long bridge over the Yough, a bit spooky on a bike, but a beautiful view of the River. The Trail runs right alongside the River, which is just an incredible view. The mountains along the River are fairly steep and were drenched in late fall colors.

We saw a couple of kayakers running it. This section, the MiddleYough, is mostly Class 1&2 rapids and can be canoed. If the weather holds out, I plan to do the 10-mile stretch today, wish you were here to join me, Kim was scared just looking at it and won't go.

Kim wanted to bake some banana bread, so I went for gasoline on a back road, and to my surprise, stumbled upon Kentuck Knob, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian designs. We were able to get on the last tour of the day, and it was just us and the tourguide, really interesting. We both liked the house and agreed we could live in it.

Our wonderful and informative tourguide releaseed us at about 4:30 to wander the grounds. Kim was surprised to find a coupkle of art pieces by Andy Goldsworthy, one of her favorites. And of course she just couldn't resist a ride on the bronze turtle!

With the sun angle low, and the fall colors, I found this shot was taken just behind the house to show that Nature can make its own beautiful art. Imagine having this view for your back yard!
The neat thing about the house is that you or I could build everything in it pretty easily, except for doing the stone work. If you ever are in this area, you simply must see this home!

Yesterday, Tuesday, we went to see Fallingwater, FLW's most famous house. We did the extended tour, which I would highly recommend to anyone visiting this fabulous landmark of Mr. Wright's career. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has taken on the task of restoring and preserving this site, and must be commended for maintaining this treasure for us all to see. The cantileavered decks were severely underdesigned by Mr Wright, and thanks to these folks efforts, and the investment of over $13 million, the house still stands and is tourable today!

I guess the most fascinating thing about this house is the fact that FLW appeared to have done nothing on paper or with his "student team" towards the design of the house for almost a year after contracting it. To everyones amazement, he sat down at a drafting table and within 3 hours of a surprise visit of the Kaufmann's drew the design including scale floor plans & elevations, knowing the location of every rock & tree, all from his head! Without a doubt, this was an enormous project. When compared to the two houses I have built, the scale and level of structural detail is huge!
Whether you are a nature lover or not, one can't help but to fall in love with this splendid setting, way up the mountain, molded in with the rocks & boulders, and literally hanging over Bear Run Falls. Oh course, this very integration with nature presented many challenges to FLW, the builder and the Kaufmann's.
Considering the complexity of the external detail, design & construction, Kim & I were pleasantly surprised as we moved inside at the clean, uncluttered simplicity of each and every room in the home. The detail that is there being unique, well thought out and tasteful, as evidenced here in the spacious living-dinning room.

As I move forward here, I realize that no amount of pictures can begin to tell the story of this creation. So, I'll put a few more detail hots in, and simply say that you must come and see this design. AND, of course, Kentuck Knob while you are in the area.

In summary, this was a wonderful tour, given by a knowledgable and dedicated staff. But as we left, Kim & I had to agree that Kentuck Knob had more of a warm, cozy, lived in feeling and was much more along the lines of what we might consider in a home.