Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fallingwater and Ohiopyle

A couple of weeks ago I went to visit Fallingwater, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright near Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.  This house was built to be fully integrated into the landscape, including a creek and waterfall.  Because I am interested in how people connect to their landscapes, especially in the case of flowing water, I thought this would be a great place to visit.

The information they gave me asked that pictures taken by the public not be put on the internet, so here's a public domain photo from Wikipedia:

The house is built around a stream and associated seeps and springs.  The design is very neat (aside from being too low-ceilinged for someone as tall as myself) and really does form a strong connection with the landscape.  However, for a variety of reasons it isn't a great idea to have lots of structures this close to creeks (and it is also now illegal).  This one of course will be preserved as-is, but building a bunch of similar structures is probably not a good idea.

That doesn't mean you can't integrate flowing water into your landscape and home, though!  The runoff from your roof and other impervious surfaces can be channeled into small 'creeks' and 'waterfalls' with no negative environmental or social effects.  In fact, this is happening in a lot of places already, especially the rainy cities of the Pacific Northwest.  See: here, here, here, here, and many more places.  Pittsburgh actually averages more precipitation than Portland or Seattle (it may not be raining as often, but when it rains in Pittsburgh, it rains HARD), and also has steeper terrain than those cities, so there is arguably even more need for runoff management here than in those areas.

On the way home I visited the town of Ohiopyle along the 'Youg' river.  To my pleasant surprise I found that small rain gardens/swales had been installed along some of the roads in town!  Unfortunately my photos seem to have been deleted, but there is more information about this project here.

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