Day By Day

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kentuck Knob

It was hot, humid and hazy as I headed down to Ohiopyle to spend some time with Frank Lloyd Wright [figuratively] -- not his most famous place, Fallingwater, but a less pretentious work -- Kentuck Knob [the Hagen House] in Chalk Hill.

Kentuck Knob is an example of Wright's "Usonian" architecture. The idea was to create houses that were themselves works of art, but were also priced so they could be afforded by ordinary people. Built in the mid-1950's, the house was originally priced at about 60,000 dollars, but the Hagens [who owned a dairy business] ordered several expansions on Wright's initial design. As a result the cost ballooned to $96,000, a bit steep for the average person. Even with these the house is still cramped for more than a couple of people, although the Hagens happily lived there for three decades. In 1996 the house and surrounding grounds were sold for about $600,000 to Lord Peter Palumbo, a British aristocrat, property developer and friend of Princess Di, who collects famous houses [here]. Palumbo did some restoration work on the place, filled it with art displays, added sculptures to the grounds, and opened it to the public. This is some of what I saw on my visit.

This is the front entrance. The building materials are copper for the roof, native sandstone for the walls, and red cypress for the woodwork. Photography was forbidden inside the house [to protect the artwork] but I could get shots of the exterior.

This is the terrace at the rear of the house. Note the hexagonal designs on the floor. These are caused by sunlight pouring through the hexagonal holes in the roof. The entire house was built on geometric shapes. The central fireplace is hexagonal, the chimney triangular, the dining tables tetrahedrons, etc.

More exterior views showing the exquisite woodwork. And now for the grounds.

Despite the haze, the view from the Knob was nothing less than spectacular, and the woods and fields surrounding the house were studded with sculptures like this:

That's one of several "sound sculptures" by Harry Bertoia.

Or this:

That's "British Red Army" by Ray Smith. Or this:

A section of the Berlin Wall. Or this:

"Apple Core" by Claes Oldenberg -- you know him, he did the "Clothespin" sculpture across the street from City Hall in Philly.

There is more, lots more, but to see it you will have to trek out to the lovely Laurel Highlands to check the place out for yourself. And, while you are there don't forget to visit "Fallingwater". It's only a few miles away.