I pulled away from the stainless steel wrapped Gateway Arch and continued on my journal. The next stop of my architecture bucket list was Fallingwater, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the first architect that I was fascinated and captivated by as a child. Cruising along the hills and curves of the country roads, feeling the breeze against my face, I was already inspired and excited to finally visit this strikingly beautiful architectural masterpiece that I had read about for many years. Just outside of town, in an area called Bear Run, I arrived at Fallingwater. Designed as a weekend retreat for Edgar and Luliane Kaufman, a prominent Pittsburgh family known for their distinctive sense of style. The Kaufmann’s love for the rushing waterfalls inspired Wright to imagine a residence placed not only near the falls, but nestled among them. The home is an impressive series of layers cantilevered structural elements over the falls and cascading down the mountains. Each level of the home evokes a unique emotional experience, fully embracing and respecting the nature surrounding it. Wright’s Fallingwater is truly a remarkable architecture feat, especially for the 1930’s when it was built. I drove down the hills away from Fallingwater feeling uplifted and calm.
I went through a total of 11 states on my trip to Toronto and back – a nice tour of America, traveling through 1/5 of her states. The weather was mostly perfect my entire trip, painting a beautiful landscape for me each day. Most of the time, I drove in silence – just me, my thoughts, and the roads. There were several places I could have stopped and spent some time enjoying, but I did have a destination and a deadline to meet. One area that truly impressed me was the northern tip of West Virginia; the views overlooking the mountains were just breathtaking. That part of the United States is so green and lush. Unlike Houston, there are hills and valleys, farmlands and forests. Many times, I thought to myself, “this looks like a postcard!”
My return drive from Toronto was more direct as I was focused and determined on just getting back to Houston. I did take the opportunity to visit another item on my bucket list (albeit not architecture related) The Pro Football Hall of Famed in Canton, Ohio. I was like a kid in a candy store and could have stayed all day to pay homage to my Green Bay Packers idols: Lombardi, Hornung, Davis, Starr, Wood, Lofton, White and Favre all enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
I arrived at my final night in Louisville, Kentucky around 8:30 PM. I settled into the hotel and had a late dinner. While I nurtured my flight of Kentucky bourbons, I felt the sense and urge to take a distillery tour or visit Churchill Downs the next day, but bee-lined it back to Houston completing the return trip in 34 hours of driving.
As an architect, I find myself trying to incorporate nature into my designs. In an urban setting such as Houston or Toronto, that’s not always possible, but I challenge myself to find unique ways to bring the outside environment into my design aesthetic. You can take an old box bungalow in Toronto and transform it to bring in more natural light and enjoy whatever outdoor scene it offers – whether it be a park across the street or a small backyard garden. Opening up the space to embrace the nature outside can make even a small bungalow more voluminous.
One of my favorite designs in Houston where I was able to invite nature in is the chapel at Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I designed it so that it takes in the views over the bayou that runs behind it.
Many find it therapeutic to be inside a building looking out into nature. I love traditional homes and traditional buildings, but I try to shy away from the traditional by incorporating balanced, proportionate openings, symmetry, and to use what God has given in nature so we can enjoy it, even from inside a building. I think there’s so much more opportunity in architecture to really relate to nature, and I’d love to be able to explore this more with future projects.
Another passion of mine is food. I didn’t take the time I probably should have to seek out local eateries along the way. My road trip dining mostly consisted of things I could eat in the car: protein bars and other light snacks; but once I got to Toronto, I appeased my appetite with some great cuisine! One of my first meals was some incredible Chinese food in Chinatown. I took a walk through Kensington Market, this hip, bohemian neighborhood, where I had the most delicious gelato. And, of course, I indulged on some amazing Italian food. (There’s so much great Italian food in Toronto!) I brought back plenty of cheese and locally made Italian meats, some things I’m still hard-pressed to find in Houston.
My three-week journey was restorative, constructive, and promising. It was great to be in my other home for a few weeks to enjoy some family and the food, wine and people of the city. I’m excited about the business opportunities I’m nurturing in Toronto, and I’m looking forward to being back more often as work permits.