Sunday, October 30, 2011
The subscription library and art gallery (1827) were soon flourishing and grew rapidly, both by the purchase of books and art and by frequent gifts. For nearly half a century the Athenæum was the unchallenged center of intellectual life in Boston and by 1851 had become one of the five largest libraries in the United States. Today its collections comprise over half a million volumes, with particular strengths in Boston history, New England state and local history, biography, English and American literature, and the fine and decorative arts (including original works by George Washington, as well as the bibles that King James sent to the colonists to try and turn them to religion instead of revolution). The Athenæum supports a dynamic art gallery, and sponsors a lively variety of events such as lectures and concerts. It also serves as a stimulating center for discussions among scholars, bibliophiles, and a variety of community interest groups.
The first three floors of the present Beacon Street building, designed by Edward Clarke Cabot, were constructed between 1847 and 1849. The first floor was originally a sculpture gallery, the second housed the library's growing collection of books, and the third, with skylights, served as a painting gallery. The building was completely renovated in 1913-1914, at which time the fourth and fifth floors were added and the entire structure fireproofed. Architect Henry Forbes Bigelow designed these improvements.
National Historic Register #66000132
Boston Athenæum offers public tours on Tuesdays at 3:00pm.The docent-led tours are the only way to see the upper floors without being the guest of a member.
617-227-0270, ext. 279
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Above: The tea house of Villa Vizcaya (1914), the winter home of James Deering in Coconut Grove.
Coconut Grove, which dates from the late 19th century, is the oldest developed part of the greater Miami area, situated along the shores of Biscayne Bay just south of the city's financial district. Coral Gables, which dates back to 1921, is one of the nation's first planned communities. It lies just to the west of Coconut Grove, and most of the border between the two cities is S. Dixie Highway, Rt. 1. The two communities have disparate histories. The fate of Coconut Grove, which is today home to Miami's City Hall, was largely linked to the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Pan American World Airways, while Coral Gables was developed as an elite leisure community surrounding a landmark luxury hotel and the University of Miami. I'll describe both places in one blog post.
The city of Coral Gables was developed in Mediterranean Revival architectural style by real estate developer George Merrick, who had inherited 3,000 acres of citrus and pine groves six miles southwest of Miami. He conceived a luxury business, residential and leisure community on this tract. After building roads to connect his property to the city of Miami and Biscayne Bay, he hired master craftsmen, landscape artists and city planners to bring Coral Gables to life in 1922, featuring wide, tree-lined boulevards, waterways, decorative bridges, fountain squares* and golf courses. Entrances to his planned city were marked by arched gateways, which still stand today.
Merrick's passionate devotion to aesthetics resulted in one of the most beautiful towns in the country, promoted as the “Miami Riviera” in advertisements during the mid 1920s. Merrick designed themed villages within the community; his original plan included 14 distinct villages, such as French Normandy, Chinese, Dutch South African, Italian and Florida Pioneer. Unfortunately, only seven villages were built, due to setbacks caused by a severe hurricane in 1926 and the ensuing depression.
Merrick planned a series of elaborate entry gates to the city. The Douglas Entrance (1924), known as La Puerta del Sol, is a historic structure located at the junction of Douglas Road and SW 8th Street. The architect was Phineas Paist, and it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
The affluent city (pop. 42,000 in 2010) began efforts to protect its heritage with effective historic preservation and restoration programs dating back to 1973. The stucco structures with red tiled roofs, loggias, arched windows and other Mediterranean Revival architectural details continue to lend their distinct character to fortunate residents. Many streets boast mature banyan and oak trees that form a complete over-arching canopy of natural shade.
George Merrick's former home is maintained today as a museum known as Coral Gables Merrick House (907 Coral Way, photo at right). His father had bought the acreage in 1899 sight unseen, and his mother designed a house built from a type of native limestone known as coral stone. Completed in 1906, it was called "Coral Gables" for the coral stone construction and gabled roof.
The Merricks operated the largest grapefruit export business in south Florida and were the first to ship carloads of grapefruit up north by train. Unfortunately, several devastating hurricanes and the economic woes of the 1930s took their toll on Merrick’s fortunes. He was still heavily in debt upon his death in 1942.
Perhaps the greatest monument to the Mediterranean Revival style is the landmark 1926 Biltmore Hotel. Its 300-ft. tall bell tower stands guard over the largest hotel swimming pool in the continental U.S. The hotel was erected in ten months at a cost of $10 million and has not changed even its exterior color to this day. As a world-class hotel, it brings visitors from the world over, while locals flock to the Biltmore to host weddings, enjoy its spa offerings and beautiful pool (Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller was once a swimming instructor). The lobby, with its coral stone columns, exotic birdcages and stenciled ceilings, remains truly impressive.
The Biltmore was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996, after a $55 million restoration was completed in 1987. The hotel is surrounded by an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Donald Ross. Unfortunately the hotel is on shaky financial footing these days, so visit sooner rather than later.
Coral Gables’ City Hall (1927) was based on Philadelphia’s historic Exchange Building. It is built of coral stone and adorned by twelve columns and topped by a three-tiered clock and bell tower rising above a distinctive semi-circular portico. The bronze statue in front (click on photo to enlarge) is of developer George Merrick.
The interior boasts historic ceiling murals depicting the four seasons. They have recently been restored to their original appearance and brilliance (click on photo to enlarge).
Fed by underground artesian wells, the magnificent 1920s-era Venetian Pool (2701 DeSoto Blvd). holds 820,000 gallons of water. The only swimming pool to be included in the National Register of Historic Places, it boasts vine-covered loggias, hand painted tiles, pergolas, bridges, porticos, a Spanish fountain, observation towers and cascading waterfalls that spill into a free-form lagoon embellished by coral rock caves and a palm-fringed island. Developer George Merrick had somehow converted a disused limestone pit into a stunning, lushly landscaped aquatic fantasy.
During its heyday gondolas plied its waters. Esther Williams and Johnny Weismuller swam its length. Orchestras serenaded pool-side dancers gliding over outdoor terrazzo floors. Bathing beauties by the hundreds promenaded across specially constructed walkways, while visiting dignitaries passed through the circular aquarium room to tour the facilities. The Miami Grand Opera once performed there.
More than one hundred thousand visitors a year come to the Venetian Pool, drained nightly in summer months and replenished each day from the subterranean aquifer that flows beneath it. A major $3.5 million historical restoration was completed in 1989, and today’s visitors can enjoy a poolside café.
This Mediterranean revival building, with its baroque belfry and elaborate sculpted molding over the main entrance, was designed as a replica of a church in Costa Rica. The exposed roof trusses and hemispherical chancel are noteworthy. In summer the church hosts a popular concert series that includes well-known names in jazz, classical and folk music – and even barbershop quartets. The liberal minded church encourages artistic and musical pursuits for youths. In particular, the Coral Gables Congregational Church Composition Prize carries prestige.
Fairchild Tropical Garden (10901 Old Cutler Road) is spread over 83 acres on the southeast edge of Coral Gables on Biscayne Bay. The garden boasts a famed collection of tropical plants and flowers, palms (500 varieties), ferns and flowering vines. There are trails around lakes and through groves, as well as mangrove forests, and rainforest and orchid displays.
The garden was designed by landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, a member of the Frederick Law Olmsted partnership and a leading landscape designer in South Florida during the 1930s. The first 15 years saw the construction of its primary buildings and landscape features, including a palmetum*, pergolas, an amphitheatre, gate house, a library and museum, 14 lakes, stone terracing walls, sunken gardens and an auditorium. A visitor center was newly constructed in 2002, and a tour includes a narrated tram ride through the property.
*Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a leading center of palm tree research, horticulture, and conservation.
Surrounding the gardens is Matheson Hammock Park and the popular Red Fish Grill restaurant (photo), where scenes from the movie “There’s Something About Mary” were filmed. The restaurant's patio affords views of Key Biscayne and an adjacent atoll pool that is flushed by the tidal action of Biscayne Bay.
Encompassing 37 square miles, Coral Gables has set aside thirty percent of its land area as dedicated green space. There are two public golf courses, numerous pocket parks tucked into residential areas and several canals that can accommodate large yachts along the 40 miles of waterfront-lot frontage. When these canals were first built in the 1920s, residents were ferried across them in Venetian style gondolas. The Coral Gables Waterway leads to the ocean at Biscayne Bay and is a major manatee protection zone.
Known today as the “Fine Dining Capital of South Florida,” Coral Gables as well has the highest concentration of live theater in Miami-Dade County and is home to dozens of fine art galleries. Also located in the heart of Coral Gables is the University of Miami (photo at left), a private research university that educates nearly 15,000 students a year. The university was founded and built on land donated by George Merrick, the developer of Coral Gables, who felt that every great city deserved a good university.
Police & Fire Station: Coral Gables Museum
Designed by Phineas Paist in 1939, the old Police and Fire Station was built during the Depression by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to provide a public safety headquarters for the city and employment for local construction workers and artisans. Paist used the simple lines of Depression architecture combined with Mediterranean Revival details. The recently restored building is now home to the Coral Gables Museum, which celebrates the history of the community, as well as the civic arts of architecture, urban design, green planning and historic and environmental preservation.
Coconut Grove on Biscayne Bay
Coconut Grove, due east of Coral Gables, is south Miami's bayfront nautical playground. It has undergone a transformation from the countercultural hippie conclave of the 1960s and 70s into a yuppie haven of bars, upscale restaurants and yachts. Perhaps the prime example of this cultural change is the hugely successful Ritz Carlton Hotel, which reflects the enormous uptick in property values.
Among the first permanent settlers in South Florida were English grocers Charles and Isabella Peacock, who arrived as immigrants in Coconut Grove to establish a hotel. They built Bay View House in 1883, the first hotel to be constructed on mainland Florida south of Palm Beach. Later renamed the Peacock Inn (vintage photo below), the first community gatherings in Miami were held at Peacock’s property. The establishment of a Florida East Coast Railway station (near present-day Douglas Road Metrorail station) in the late 1890s made the once difficult-to-access lodge into a popular refuge. Today the site of the former hotel is maintained by the city of Miami as Peacock Park.
Coconut Grove was an independent city until it was annexed by the city of Miami in 1925. Previously a United States Naval Air Station was established in Coconut Grove along Biscayne Bay in 1917, during WW I. In 1931 Pan American World Airways took over the Naval air station property as a base for its sea plane “clipper” flights to Cuba, which cost $35 at the time.
In the vintage photo of the terminal interior (above), note the 10-ft. diameter globe and the winged clock. The globe now resides in the nearby Miami Museum of Science, but the former terminal room now serves as chambers for Miami's City Hall (notice the winged clock and other original decorative details in the photo below).
The Pan American Airways facility was once the largest seaplane terminal in the world and the main hub for air traffic between North and South America. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt departed from here on a flight to Casablanca, Morocco. Designed by Delano and Aldrich, the Streamline Moderne building has been the Miami City Hall since 1954 and retains many of its original features. Today the building houses the Mayor, Commissioners and the City Clerk in a spectacular bayfront setting. Pan Am had been founded in 1927 as a mail and passenger carrier for flights between Florida and Cuba. After WWII PanAm sold its hangers and terminal to the City of Miami in 1946. This 1930s vintage photo shows some of Pan Am's seaplanes in front of the airplane terminal.
The Grove, as it is known by locals, is known today for its ethnic restaurants and open air cafés. A vibrant youth culture becomes a center of nightlife patronized by young professionals and students from the nearby University of Miami and Florida International University. The western border of Coconut Grove is Coral Gables, home to the University of Miami.
Plymouth Congregational Church (1916) is a prized example of Spanish Mission style architecture. Organized in 1897, the church was founded by influential pioneer citizens of Coconut Grove. Solomon G. Merrick, father of Coral Gables developer George Merrick, became pastor in 1901. The church expanded rapidly and outgrew two chapels before the building of this structure in 1916; the architect was Clinton McKenzie of New York. The building’s twin bell towers, curvilinear gable roof, and elaborate front entrance are important architectural elements. The building’s oolitic limestone (coral rock) stonework was laid by a single stonemason, a Spaniard named Felix Rebom. The main entrance features an enriched classical door surround. The door itself is approximately 400 years old and came from a monastery in the Pyrenees Mountains. Made of hand carved walnut backed with oak, it still retains its original hand wrought iron fittings.
The eastern border of Coconut Grove is Biscayne Bay, which caters to the boating community, featuring sailing and yacht clubs and a marina. The Villa Vizcaya and gardens (photo below), built in 1914 by International Harvester magnate James Deering, borders Biscayne Bay at the northeast edge of Coconut Grove. It is a popular area tourist attraction (closed Tuesdays).
At the time of Vizcaya’s construction in 1914, Miami’s population was around 10,000. More than 1,000 workers were employed in building the Vizcaya house and elaborate gardens, including laborers and craftsmen from the Caribbean and Europe.
Mr. Deering's elaborate bathroom with tented ceiling:
Vizcaya's grand reception room, walls upholstered in silk with tropical designs:
Monday, August 2, 2010
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is a western Pennsylvania mountain retreat home built 1936-38 for the Edgar J. Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh, owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store. The home was used by the Kaufmann household, Edgar, Liliane and their only child until 1963. It was then opened to the public in 1964 after being entrusted to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy by their son Edgar Kaufmann, jr. (1910-1989); the lower case “jr” was his preference. The home, which forms a strong and innovative organic bond to its setting, is considered by many to be the most famous house in America. It is undisputedly one of the architectural triumphs of the 20th century.
The Kaufmanns were wealthy, well traveled, educated and sophisticated people who sought out artists and creative people all their lives as they moved about in international circles. As Jews they encountered obstacles to their position in Pittsburgh society, but they remained passionate about aesthetic beauty and loved outdoor activity, especially horseback riding and fishing. At the urging of their son, who was working for Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) at Taliesin (Wisconsin) at the time, they chose the storied architectural genius to design a home on their 2,000 acre woodland retreat in 1935, when Wright was well into his late 60s. At the same time, Wright was asked to design an executive office for Edgar in the Kaufmann department store. Wright designed the walls, furniture and all textiles (including the rugs). This room has since been removed from the store (now a Macy's) and displayed in several museums here and abroad. Edgar jr. subsequently donated it to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where it is on permanent display (see photo at end of post).
Their son had been studying in Europe to become a painter, but made a career change in 1934 after reading Wright’s An Autobiography (publ. 1932), subsequently joining the Taliesin Fellowship of apprentices. In 1937 he began an 18-year association with the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), which eventually led him away from a career in retailing to his life’s work as a curator and scholar. Edgar jr. became a lecturer and authority on Frank Lloyd Wright as Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Art History at Columbia University (1963-1986). He remained a frequent visitor to Fallingwater after it opened to the public.
His generous transfer of Fallingwater to a conservancy has made it possible for millions of architecture enthusiasts to experience Wright’s masterpiece, located 72 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, in its original setting with all furnishings, books and artwork intact. The quality of art on casual display is exceptional: original works by Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso, pre-Columbian statues and highly valuable sculpture placed both inside and out.
The woodland acreage was originally used as a summer camp and retreat for employees of Kaufmann’s Department Store, but the Depression years of the 1930s saw disuse of the property, since employees could no longer shoulder the expense of traveling to and staying at the camp. At that time the Kaufmann family decided to replace their log weekend house with a much larger home farther from the recently paved road. The rest is history. Today we can enjoy a visit to this landmark house just as it was constructed and furnished by the original owners. Fallingwater is surrounded by the conservancy’s 5,000 acre Bear Run Nature Reserve.
Click to enlarge: Guest house addition from 1939
The distinctive main house, which straddles a stream with waterfalls and boulders, was followed by construction of a complimentary 4-bedroom guest house in 1939. The two structures are separated by a winding pathway covered by concrete esplanades. The main house boasts 2,885 sq. ft. of interior space plus 2,445 sq. ft. of terraces (total 5,330 sq. ft.), while the guest house covers 1,700 sq. ft. The total cost for the house in the 1930s was $155,000, including $8,000 in architect’s fees and $4,500 for built-in walnut furnishings. Wright's original cost estimate had been $35,000. In today's dollars, $155,000 amounts to about $2.5 million, an extraordinary sum for a weekend house.
Although he had many ideas "in his head," Wright feverishly sketched plans for the house in a matter of a few hours. Months behind on the project, he rushed to have something to show Kaufmann, who had phoned to say that he was already on his way to visit Wright's office.
Wright exercised his typical control over interior furnishings and specifications, designing almost all the furniture and even the fireplace tools. He limited the palette to just two colors: a light ochre for the concrete and his signature Cherokee red for the metal surfaces (both may be purchased today from Pittsburgh Paints). There is liberal use of natural stone on walls, stairs and floors both inside and out.
The main house is approached by a stone-paved bridge spanning the cascading Bear Run. The sound of rushing water greets the visitor, but no entry door is apparent (it is in the rear). An innovative feature is a set of stairs that lead from one of the many terraces directly down to the stream. A plunge pool, walled off from the stream by stone, is adjacent to this area. Except for the stone chimney stack, the entire main house emphasizes horizontal planes and exaggerated cantilevers. The guest house, which boasts a 6-ft. deep swimming pool and a multi-car garage, is located uphill from the main structure.
Click images to enlarge:
Many of the local farmers and skilled workers in the area became part of the construction team that built Fallingwater. During the Depression, they were thankful for extra jobs and income. Walter Hall, a self-taught local builder, oversaw the construction project, including the guest house, for the sum of $50 a week. The stone used in constructing the house was quarried on site, and Hall himself taught many of the unskilled laborers building techniques they were able to use long after the Fallingwater project was completed.
Wright’s commission to design Fallingwater jump started a flagging career. This house became famous after being featured on the cover of TIME magazine in 1938. Many people expected Wright, who was 72 when Fallingwater was completed, to head into retirement. His renewed fame, however, brought him a flurry of commissions; more than half of the four hundred structures he designed were built after Fallingwater. Wright worked right up until his death at age 91.
More than 5 million people have visited Fallingwater since it was opened to the public in 1964. On average, about 150,000 people visit the site annually. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy completed major structural repairs in 2002 to strengthen Fallingwater’s extreme cantilevers, guarding against a possible future collapse and deflection. Attention was paid to leaks and problems with mold, as well.
Note: Kaufmann commissioned another architectural masterpiece for use as a vacation house. In 1946 he hired noted Viennese architect Richard Neutra to design a house to be built on the edge of Palm Springs, CA, as a retreat from harsh winters. Neutra had once been a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice and even named his son after Wright. Subsequent owners (including Barry Manilow) altered the Palm Springs house dramatically and insensitively, but a thorough and accurate restoration returned it to its original condition in the late 1990s. The house, a fabled example of the International Style against which Wright rebelled, was sold at auction in 2008 by Christie’s Auction House for $15 million.
Photo below: Fallingwater viewed from Bear Run.
Skeletons in the Closet:
Most visitors to Fallingwater come on a pilgrimage to the Holy Grail of modern architecture, where they are allowed to worship at the feet of a genius. However, Fallingwater was the scene of events lived on a less lofty plane. The house was a possession of a rich and powerful family that played by its own rules. Liliane and Edgar traveled to NYC to get married, because it was not then legal for first cousins to marry in Pennsylvania. Soon after she became immersed in the business of the department store and introduced the people of Pittsburgh to the fashions of Paris. While at Kaufmann’s, she turned the then-unprofitable 11th floor women’s shop into a successful boutique, Vendôme, a reflection of the elegant Place Vendôme in Paris. She traveled through Europe to keep it stocked with antiques, artwork, and interesting objects d’art. Liliane ruled the Vendôme floor completely, returning from buying trips to Europe with the flair of royalty, her attendants and chauffeur in tow. To her secretary at the time, Mary Michaely, it was like the return of a queen to her palace.
The Kaufmanns flaunted their money with an over-the-top lifestyle, regularly hosting extravagant themed parties that tipped toward debauchery. They shocked friends when they sunbathed in the nude. The Kaufmanns were given to avant-garde behavior and marketed themselves outrageously. Edgar was a notorious womanizer who favored women half his age, often showgirls; in 1929 Edgar fathered a child with a model from his store. Both Liliane and Edgar abused alcohol.
Liliane did not like Fallingwater, mentioning that the terraces made the bedroom hot (she had a bedroom separate from that of her husband), and that the location directly over a stream created problems with mold. And the roof leaked. She often retired to the guest house up the hill and swam in its pool, enjoying solitude there. She doted on her son, who withdrew from the family retail business in Pittsburgh for a career in New York City, where his homosexuality was more accepted.
Edgar Jonas Kaufmann Sr. (called “E.J.” by his close friends) frequently crossed swords with Wright (another notorious womanizer). E.J. commissioned another dozen projects from the architect, but never built any of them. Wright was offended when Edgar Sr. hired one of Wright’s own students, Richard Neutra, to design a winter home in Palm Springs. Liliane confided to Wright that she and Edgar seldom shared a house except for purposes of entertaining, and she approached Wright about designing a private retreat just for her in Palm Springs.
In 1952, Liliane died from an overdose of sleeping pills while at Fallingwater, after she learned that her husband had fallen in love with his much younger nurse (Edgar had chronic and often severe back problems). The coroner declared the death accidental, but Edgar jr. insisted his mother’s death was a suicide. After marrying said nurse (he was in his late 60s; she was 34), Edgar Sr. died only seven months later (1955) of bone cancer while in residence at his Neutra-designed Palm Springs home. Upon learning that Kaufmann had left the bulk of his estate to his charitable foundation, his new wife sued for $5 million, declaring that she needed to maintain her lifestyle and status. She had signed a prenuptial agreement, however, and after years of legal challenges, eventually lost the suit. She died in a tragic accidental fire inside her apartment in Pittsburgh in the 1960s, just 15 minutes before her maid arrived.
Edgar jr., deeply affected by his parents’ estrangement and his mother’s subsequent death, was eventually able to accomplish what he was unable to do while his parents were alive. He commissioned an extravagant mausoleum of earth-toned stucco and stone to be built on the grounds of Fallingwater; he transferred his mother’s body from Pittsburgh’s Homewood Cemetery and eventually interred his father there, as well. At last Edgar jr.'s parents were as he wanted them, joined together, side-by-side. Noted Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti created the crypt’s huge bronze doors, which depict two solitary bas-relief stick-like figures, a woman sitting against a tree on the right and a man standing far away on the left, facing each other across a barren valley. Kevin Gray, in a New York Times feature from 2001, described the doors as having “dark, stormy background branches evoking William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”
The tomb is several hundred yards upstream from the main house, reached by its own bridge, although tourists are not allowed to visit it. In fact, docents and guides will not reveal its exact location. Edgar jr's own body was cremated in 1989, and his ashes were scattered around the grounds of Fallingwater, as well as those of his long time companion, Paul Mayén.
Edgar jr., as discrete as his parents were brash, had a substantial career as a learned and disciplined historian, an exact and graceful writer, a perceptive critic, educator and philanthropist – all without a traditional college education. One of his enduring legacies was co-founding, along with famed architects Eero Saarinen and Charles and Ray Eames, the GOOD DESIGN awards in 1950; GOOD DESIGN grants international recognition upon designers and manufacturers for advancing new, visionary, and innovative product concepts, invention and originality, and for stretching the envelope beyond what is considered ordinary product and consumer design. During the past 60 years winners have included Alessi, Porsche, Bang & Olufsen, Apple, Herman Miller, Bose and Knoll. The 2010 winners will be announced in September.
Tip: If salacious details fascinate you, buy the cookbook available in the gift shop. Elsie Henderson was the personal cook for the Kaufmann household, and she reveals much more than favorite family recipes.
Exerpt (text accompanies a recipe for chicken/avocado salad):
Elsie often featured avocado in salads when Edgar Jr. and his companion, Paul Mayén, were at Fallingwater. “Mr. Mayén loved avocados.”
Elsie Henderson, an African-American, is today 96 years old. A portion of the cookbook’s profits help support her.
The Mayén Connection
It is a curious fact that Paul Mayén, a Spanish-born industrial designer who for 36 years shared Edgar jr’s Manhattan apartment and retreat in Hydra, Greece, designed the gift shop, café and visitor center complex (built in 1978) set in the woods above Fallingwater. Everyone who tours Fallingwater passes through it. As well, one of Paul Mayén’s design creations, a red cubical sculpture, sits unheralded on the coffee table in Fallingwater’s living room.
Frank Lloyd Wright, who in 1956 had designed a retreat house known as Kentuck Knob for I.N. and Bernadine Hagan (just four miles from Fallingwater), suggested that they hire Edgar jr. and Mayén (as a couple) to assist in selecting furniture. Paul and Edgar jr. directed the Hagans toward furnishings by George Jensen and Hans Wegner. They selected Jack Lenor Larsen fabrics for the built-in Wright-designed seating area and purchased Moroccan rugs from Kaufmann’s department store in Pittsburgh. Now owned by a British Lord, Kentuck Knob is open for tours. While it is a fine example of a modest Usonian house, and in pristine condition, every interior surface is marred by excessive clutter from the present occupants. Wright would have had apoplexy.
In 1975, Mayén designed a country house for the Hagans in rural New York State. As well, Paul Mayén designed the jacket of a book about Wright, Drawings for a Living Architecture (1959), and provided photographs for a 1965 book about Fallingwater.
Given his professional contributions to such an iconic architectural site and his personal ties to its heir, it is astonishing that so little is known about Mayén and his work.
Below: Wright's office for Edgar Sr. at the Kaufmann Department Store, now on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.