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Lynda Waggoner reports

  • Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright 1939. Photo © Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
  • Expert Meeting Fundraising Van Schijndel House Utrecht. Photo Aad van Vliet.
  • Dutch, German and Belgian members of the Iconic Houses network. Photo Aad van Vliet.
  • Visit Rietveld-Schröder House. Natalie Dubois, Lynda Waggoner, Natascha Dabbe. Photo Els Zweerink.
  • Dinner hosted by Tracy Metz and Baptist Brayé prior to the lecture for the John Adams Institute.
  • Lecture for John Adams Institute Amsterdam in Canal Museum Amsterdam. Photo Gerrit Serné.
  • Lecture for John Adams Institute Amsterdam in Canal Museum Amsterdam. Photo Gerrit Serné.
  • Lecture for Ungers Archive for Architectural Studies in Wallraf Richartz Museum Cologne. Photo Heidrun Hertel.
  • Wiltrud Hammelstein, Sophia Ungers, Lynda Waggoner, Rainer Minz, Anja Siebers in Wallraf Richartz Museum Cologne. Photo Heidrun Hertel.
  • Lecture by Lynda Waggoner in Villa Tugendhat in Brno.
  • Tom Waggoner, Lynda Waggoner, Iveta Cerna in Villa Tugendhat in Brno.
  • Lecture by Lynda Waggoner in Villa Stenersen in Oslo.
  • Villa Stenersen in Oslo.
  • Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright 1939. Photo © Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
  • Expert Meeting Fundraising Van Schijndel House Utrecht. Photo Aad van Vliet.
  • Dutch, German and Belgian members of the Iconic Houses network. Photo Aad van Vliet.
  • Visit Rietveld-Schröder House. Natalie Dubois, Lynda Waggoner, Natascha Dabbe. Photo Els Zweerink.
  • Dinner hosted by Tracy Metz and Baptist Brayé prior to the lecture for the John Adams Institute.
  • Lecture for John Adams Institute Amsterdam in Canal Museum Amsterdam. Photo Gerrit Serné.
  • Lecture for John Adams Institute Amsterdam in Canal Museum Amsterdam. Photo Gerrit Serné.
  • Lecture for Ungers Archive for Architectural Studies in Wallraf Richartz Museum Cologne. Photo Heidrun Hertel.
  • Wiltrud Hammelstein, Sophia Ungers, Lynda Waggoner, Rainer Minz, Anja Siebers in Wallraf Richartz Museum Cologne. Photo Heidrun Hertel.
  • Lecture by Lynda Waggoner in Villa Tugendhat in Brno.
  • Tom Waggoner, Lynda Waggoner, Iveta Cerna in Villa Tugendhat in Brno.
  • Lecture by Lynda Waggoner in Villa Stenersen in Oslo.
  • Villa Stenersen in Oslo.

The appeal of Fallingwater is as strong as ever. Or at least that is how it seemed during my three week European lecture tour in May. The tour was organized by the indomitable Natascha Drabbe, Director of the Iconic Houses Foundation, and began in Utrecht (home base for the foundation). We began at the stunning Van Schijndel House. Designed in 1992 by Natascha’s late husband, Mart van Schijndel, the house was a complete surprise - a self- contained world of light and soaring space that seems totally apart from the city outside. There is no street façade; instead, one enters into a courtyard with the entry to the house at the far end. Its many innovations include cupboards whose doors have no hardware hinges; instead, they are attached or hinged on a thin bead of silicone; there are also glass walls that slide back in an ingenious way to open the corner of the living space onto a small enclosed garden thereby blurring the separation between the inside and outside. The triangle is a major design motif in house. It is found in the plan, architectural elements, the furnishings and even glassware..., resulting in a strikingly beautiful unified whole.

At the Van Schijndel House I led a fund raising workshop for modern house museum directors, one of whom traveled from as far away as Berlin. We discussed the unique challenges all museums face with significant cut backs in government funding. I shared how Fallingwater, over the course of twenty-plus years, has learned various ways to garner support through a combination of earned income and private or civil society engagement.

The following day we used the most popular form of transportation, bicycles, to travel to the other side of Utrecht to see the remarkable Rietveld-Schröder House, a World Heritage Site. A private tour of the small two-story house confirmed the brilliance of the design. The house is known the world-over for its abstraction of form and use of clearly defined primary colors, replete with interior walls that collapse and transform rooms from one function into another, it was a manifesto of the De Stijl Movement and remains as inspiring today as it was when constructed in 1924.

The first lecture was in Amsterdam. There we were entertained royally in the home of Tracy Metz, director of the John Adams Institute, which organized the lecture. We were thoroughly impressed by this beautifully restored 17th century canal house and enjoyed a classic Dutch supper of asparagus, eggs and ham prepared by Tracy’s husband Baptist Brayé. However, it was ‘eat and run’ as we dashed down the street to the Museum Het Grachtenhuis (Museum of the Canals) to prepare for the lecture. Happily, the house was packed with many people standing or sitting in doorways (the Fire Marshall must have been out of town). After the lecture Tracy brilliantly moderated a conversation about Fallingwater and Q&A interspersed with video clips that included footage of Fallingwater’s former owner, Edgar Kaufmann jr., and the Taliesin apprentices who helped oversee its construction. The questions were many and knowledgeable - all in all, a great way to begin the tour.

Next was Cologne. Prior to the lecture, a private tour of the rationalist German architect Oswald Mathias Ungers’ Cube House proved fascinating. In it, I found similarities to Frank Lloyd Wright’s own Oak Park Home and Studio, especially in the organization of the library space with its wrap around mezzanine. Like Wright, and Van Schijndel, Ungers used the house as a laboratory for his ideas.

That evening, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum’s 250-seat auditorium (the museum was designed by Ungers) was an ideal location for the sold-out event. Dr. Rainer Minz, CEO of the Amerika Haus, opened the evening with a welcome and thanks to co-sponsor Sophia Ungers of the Ungers Archive for Architectural Studies. As we approached the museum, a line extending around the block prompted me to ask, ‘What’s going on?’ The answer was, ‘They are here for your lecture.’ It was hard to believe. The lecture was followed by a showing of Ken Love’s film ‘Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterwork’ and Q&A which elicited a number of interesting questions.

A short flight and bus ride delivered us to Brno, Czech Republic. Brno is a remarkable city and a showcase for modernism. Our hostess and guide, Iveta Černá, director of the great Villa Tugendhat designed by Mies van der Rohe, seemed to hold all the right keys as she led us from one fabulous modernist site to another, culminating with the Miesian masterpiece, Villa Tugendhat, the location of the lecture. Built between 1929 and ‘30, like Fallingwater, it simply takes your breath away. The house was designed for the Tugendhats, a wealthy Jewish family that was forced to abandon the house as they fled Brno during the Second World War. During the Nazi occupation and later under the Soviets, the house experienced one abuse after another including a period during which it was used to stable horses. Notable not only for it design, but for its futuristic mechanical systems including air cooling and cleaning technologies, an innovative heating system, and an engine room for the mechanics which operate its retractable windows. Now meticulously restored, it is a World Heritage Site and shines as one of modernism’s greatest works.

The last stop was Oslo. Following a long delay our flight arrived in late evening, but it was still daylight at 10 PM; it was the perfect introduction to the ‘land of the midnight sun.’ The following morning we had some free time, so we borrowed bicycles from the hotel and peddled off to see works by Norway’s best-known artist, Edvard Munch at the Munch Museum and the Norwegian National Gallery. Larger and even more striking than I expected, they were fascinating.

Shortly after five, Lin Stafne-Pfisterer, who oversees the Villa Stenersen, picked us up to go to the villa, the site of the lecture. En route Lin fielded a call for tickets to the event. She explained it is full but she would add their names to the waiting list. However, the caller was persistent and Lin finally relented saying, ‘Okay just show up and if we have room we will fit you in.’

Villa Stenersen sits high on a hill in a residential neighborhood with views of the Oslo Fjord. Arne Korsmo, one of Norway's most renowned architects, designed it in 1939 in the International Style as a private home for finance broker and art lover Rolf M. Stenersen and his family. In 1979 Stenersen donated the villa to the Norwegian state to be used as the prime minister’s residence, but only one Norwegian prime minister ever lived there. Now it is owned by Oslo’s National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design and functions as a meeting place for those involved in the fields of architecture and design and is opened for tours on a limited basis.

Following the lecture we went to the Ekeberg Restaurant. Located not far from where Edvard Munch painted his famous work, ‘The Scream’, it is now a Michelin-starred restaurant located in a magnificently restored art-deco building high on a hill with commanding views of Oslo. We were joined by one of Lin’s colleagues and together we talked until dark - which is late in this part of the world - about everything from architecture to Donald Trump. It was a happy and fitting end to a wonderful experience.

Lynda Waggoner, Mill Run, USA
Amsterdam, Cologne, Brno and Oslo, 12-24 May 2016

Publication date 30 June 2016