posted in: Architecture, Blog, Site Visit, Superstruct | 1

This past April (while on a road trip from NJ to KC), I had the opportunity to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s domestic commission, Fallingwater, nestled in the woods of Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburg.

Fallingwater: Initial Approach

What is immediately clear upon approach is that Lloyd knows his architectural history. It would appear that Wright synthesized certain principles of design from across a spectrum of cultures and histories. These principles of balance and grace were clarified, and then combined to achieve a new harmony. Clean lines, flawless integration with its natural surroundings, and modular domestic amenities inside and out are reminiscent of Japanese architecture.  Every square inch of space, overlap and point of contact is considered.

One of the most glaring differences between experiencing this home and contemporary homes are that the proportions of everything- thresholds, to rooms and windows, planters and the pool- each one is so contentious.

Frankly, I was shocked to see Wright use an ochre color of paint applied to concrete shaped into soft round, repeating curves. When I think of Wright’s style, angular bricks in squat midwest prairie iterations spring to mind. In my humble opinion, Falling Water also references Adobe abodes, so characteristic to the American Southwest.

Pueblos de Taos, New Mexico

The ochre body with red window trim made the home both pop and recede into the foliage depending on the strength of the sun through the clouds that day. I overheard a passing guide mention the color was derived from the underside of a fallen, dead leaf.

Falling Water's cantaliever

Paint Colors: Wright’s desire to create a unified and organic composition limited the color palette at Fallingwater. Only two colors were used throughout:  a light ochre for the concrete and his signature Cherokee red for the steel (PPG Pittsburgh Paints). –Fallingwater Facts

Even though this home was built in 1936, its vision and clarity resonates today. I wonder what kind of lives were enriched by existing amidst nature mingling with these walls. Fallingwater is a fantastic specimen of “superstruct,” the original foundation here literally being nature and conceptually being a myriad of architectural histories/principles that are built upon. It is a structure quietly ahead of its time.


Fallingwater is anchored seamlessly into natural rock. (extra points if you spot my mother)
We even admired the patio furniture; the raised center design takes into account the position of lounging legs and feet.


Peter Volkous sculpture signed '58 spotted by the spring-fed pool

Single Family, Colonial – Kansas City

posted in: Blog, Living Arrangements | 1
Photo courtesy of: William Fischer, Jr., May 21, 2011

Inspired by Nicole’s amazing post a couple of weeks ago where she was looking at and analyzing the diversity among Kansas City’s modern house culture, I have decided to highlight another interesting Kansas City neighborhood, Janssen Place.

The Janssen Place neighborhood is located within the larger, Hyde Park Neighborhood.  The original layout for the neighborhood was drawn by Arthur E. Stilwell in 1897.   Stilwell was born in New York and first came to Kansas City in 1879, he was interested in the potential of starting a railroad in Kansas City.  He spent the first ten years of his Kansas City life starting a Trust Company and allowed Stilwell to start construction on the railroad.  During the time the railroad was being built there were problems, delays and Wall Street failures which forced Stilwell to turn to Dutch financiers for support.

The Janssen Place neighborhood was modeled after residental neighborhoods in New York and St. Louis, “a formal area for upper class dwellings.” The name Janssen Place came from August Janssen, a Dutch capitalist who was a good friend of Arthur Stilwell.

You can find more information about Arthur Stilwell and the Janssen Place Neighborhood here:


Image from Rechelle Unplugged: http://www.rechelleunplugged.com/2009/09/a-walk-through-historic-janssen-place-hyde-park-kansas-city/
Image from William Fischer, Jr.: http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=44401


Yanda House & Cellophane Rain

posted in: Blog, Living Arrangements | 0

Did you know Kansas City is peppered with unique and visionary modern domestic dwellings? One fortuitous night, we took the long way home. In the narrow, meandering lanes of the Roanoke/Valentine neighborhood of midtown Kansas City, we stumbled upon this domestic gem. It happened to be the “magic hour”- when diffuse sunlight makes all colors burn just a bit brighter. Imagine rolling up to a bright citron yellow, domed home, on steel stilts. This residence is the non-sequiter of its neighborhood (just around the corner is Thomas Hart Benton’s former live-work space which is composed of muscular looking stone; a traditional Missouri building material). This hard-edged home gives new meaning to the term “domicile.” There is a small room at the top center that has a Plexiglass bubble from a bomber. According to this site, the builder/designer Albert J. Yanda, had to fight the city in order to utilize (“unsightly”) steel beams for support and won. I have heard rumors that you can make arrangements to tour this home free of charge. How does living and toiling in a “curated” or at the very least mediated space impact the kind of artwork we make?

Yanda Residence Kansas City, MO 1966

1966 Yanda Residence
Architect: Albert J. Yanda
Designed: 1965
Builder: Albert J. Yanda
Built: 1966
Size: 1700sq. ft. 2 bedroom 2 bath
Photographer: Unknown
The Yanda Residence was built by Architect, Albert J. Yanda for himself and his wife. The structure, built of steel, sits on what was considered for years to be an unbuildable lot. His creative response to the site is an introverted façade to the street and a soaring glass filled structure to the rear. The inspiration for this house may have been looking West to John Lautner’s Chemosphere house in California , built a few years earlier. Not long after completing this house Yanda would move west himself. Yanda had previously been in the employ of David B. Runnells, Architect to several early Drummond Projects. Yanda’s initials appear on many of Runnells’ drawings as the draftsman of these plans.

A fantastic flickr pic of the Yanda home in winter.

More information on the Yanda Residence and its Roanoke neighborhood.


On another note, here is a domestic gem we discovered while cross-referencing KC Modern Homes. Wow. All I can imagine is listening to Earth Wind and Fire tracks during all the swinging parties that must have taken place at its base. It makes so much sense- a fireplace with fringe on top in Missouri…

1965 Hyde Residence
Architect: Bruce Goff
Designed: 1964
Builder: Michael Rothstein Construction
Built: 1965
Size: 3400 sq ft. 5 bedroom 3 ½ bathThis is a raised rectangular plan with a partial basement. The ten foot by ten foot central skylight over the brick hearth is penetrated by the fireplace chimney, which has a purple mirrored triangular wall behind. Strips of “cellophane rain” hang from the skylight, creating a magic play of light on carpet and walls. With a fire burning, you understand the concept of Earth, Fire and Water. Many people know the house from the use of green dime store ashtrays used as stained glass elements in the doors and railing. 

Because Kansas City remains a car-centric city, I suggest taking a KCModern driving tour to view modern domestic spaces:

Driving Tour #1

Driving Tour #2