POLYMATH PARK: PART ONE
Four historic homes designed and/or influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright
Story and photographs by Nicholas Tindall
This wasn’t the plan. We were supposed to visit Fallingwater. However, since they're only allowing external tours of that location at the moment, we decided to go in a different direction. Luckily, there was another option nearby called Polymath Park. As it turned out, not a bad Plan B.
Polymath Park (Acme, Pennsylvania) was created with the intention of displaying and preserving architectural works designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and/or other works inspired by him; including apprentice Peter Berndtson, and son Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. Currently, there are four such houses in the Park, plus a visitor's center and very fine restaurant 'Treetops', serving uber locally-sourced ingredients with architecturally-inspired presentation.
It’s an evolving community, with more homes waiting in the wings. Literally. One is called BirdWing, currently in “deep freeze”; its’ pieces locked inside large shipping containers waiting to be reassembled on the property. It flew in from Minnesota at the end of last year, saved from extinction (aka new housing development) before the approved demolition could begin. Read that story here.
But, I digress. Easy to do, with so many interesting facets of Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy, and individual stories about each one of the homes on site that he designed or influenced. But FLW, ironically, did not produce a ton of homes (only 60). Not for lack of trying, though.
Enter ‘Usonia’, where I’ll take advantage of Wikipedia’s definition here:
“ Usonia (/juːˈsoʊniə/) is a word that was used by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright to refer to the United States in general (in preference to America), and more specifically to his vision for the landscape of the country, including the planning of cities and the architecture of buildings. “
As we learned from our wonderful tour guide (and staff gardener), Beverly, “FLW was a Naturalist, not necessarily an architect. He believed in no barriers existing between the homeowner and Nature. He wanted his designs to resonate with middle class and help them have aesthetically-pleasing homes…as well as homes that were easy to clean and maintain.”
“Mäntylä, meaning “of the pines” was designed for the R.W. Lindholm family by Mr. Wright. The home will place you into a setting flowing with Mr. Wright’s eclectic yet visionary design techniques. Discover the dramatic angles and prows that seem to tower over the landscape.” – Polymath Park brochure
Here you can see the large, open fireplace. FLW insisted having fireplaces in all of his homes, and they were often large and accessible, many fashioned after primitive fireplaces, which were open to allow for cooking.
Seating area with unique hexagonal table and chairs.
Technology with style. Modern appliances from the 1950’s, including SMEG refrigerator.
Important takeaways from this visit include:
- How design flows from architecture to interior design; the relationship between the two and how one can inspire another.
- Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to offer great design to not only the rich and sophisticated, but also provide the same elegant, functional homes for the middle class.
- Successful living does not have to be grandiose living. Many of these houses are less than 2000 or 3000 square feet.
- ‘Organic architecture’ includes integrating the home into its surroundings—wooded areas, hillsides, rivers, etc.
- It’s all about the details: thoughtfully-designed lines and spaces; using natural materials (pebble-covered roofs; cork-tiled floors; slate and stone from surrounding area; etc.); utilizing geographic features to provide home protection, insulation and natural lighting.
Stay tuned for Part Two, where we explore the other FLW homes located at Polymath Park.
Shipping containers holding the disassembled BirdWing, a FLW Jr. design, brought in from Minnesota.