Sunday, August 15, 2010



When I think about the conjunction of landscape, water and architecture, I definitely evoke Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, the house that he designed in 1935 for the merchant and philanthropist Edgar J. Kaufmann and his wife Liliane in Pennsylvania, USA. More than 70 years after it was built, Fallingwater is undoubtedly the best example of American architecture and continues to impress by its spatial composition, the innovative use of materials and especially by its perfect integration into the surrounding landscape. Fallingwater, the most famous private residence of the twentieth century, harmonizes with its natural environment by proposing a series of boxes that give the impression to levitate over the water. As stated by Franklin Toker in his fascinating Fallingwater Rising, "Visiting Fallingwater has little to do with architecture or engineering: the quality we perceive here is essentially spiritual."

Photo courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservatory (WPC)

The house, built between 1935 to 1937, world-renowned not only give back world fame to a nearly forgotten Wright (at that time he was 67 years old and he had had no major commission for about a decade), but at the same time it enabled the Jewish merchant EJ Kaufmann to earn respect from the biased and anti-Semitic society of Pittsburgh in the 30s. Edgar Kaufmann Jr. would also have an important role in promoting his father's working relationship with the architect, although its role has been questioned by researchers such as Toker. But what cannot be denied is his generosity, since it was due to Edgar Kaufmann Jr. that Fallingwater was able to keep intact its architecture, its furniture and upholstery (also designed by Wright specially for the home), its fine art collection and the natural environment that he managed to recover and protect. Thanks to him, the house is now open to the public.

EJ Kaufmann and Wright at the Taliesin (Photo courtesy of WPC)

The house is located over the Bear Run, a stream that in its short length describes a U-shape before joining the Youghiogheny River, in a wooded area near Ohiopyle, previously damaged by mining. After being acquired by the Kaufmanns, the area was ecologically recovered and scenically enhanced.

Left down, Fallingwater. Above, Youghiogheny River (Photo courtesy of WPC Thomas Heinz)

Analyzing the site Wright noted that not one but two waterfalls cut through the stream in diagonal, in the direction of the flow. Consequently he placed the volumes by rotating the direction of the overhangs 90 degrees and therefore achieving a gradual terracing of the horizontal volumes, which appear to be floating freely, only supported by the rigid purity of the vertical box that holds them.

Nine months passed since the first time that Wright saw the site up to the moment in which the project was drawn on paper. During that time, at least three visits of Wright to the Bear Run have documented, in which the architect conceived the building in his head. Not one line was drawn at that time, as Wright would say "the building is conceived in the imagination, not on paper but in the mind... Let him live there, gradually taking definitive shape before committing to the drawing board . When that thing is alive in you, start to plan it with drawing tools. ... Not before. " So, nine months was Fallingwater in Wright's head, and then it was drawn in just 140 minutes. During those months, many factors had to converge in Wright’s mind to produce such a peculiar result: from his previous work at the Robie House until the very influence of European architects. From the smooth and earthy shape of San Ildefonso Pueblo that fascinated him, until the Japanese drawings of waterfalls collected during his trip to Japan.

View of the Ono falls, by Hokusai. Source F. Toker

Wright based his composition on the dynamic arrangement of horizontal and vertical volumes dynamically prepared. To achieve a sense of lightness he used cantilevered terraces, locating them over solid but hidden trapezoidal supports, embedded in the rock. Wright associated this structural concept to the way a waiter carries a tray on his fingers.

View of the foundations. Image by Carlos Zeballos
Image of the supports and the stairs to the Bear Run (Photo courtesy of WPC)

Then, reinforced concrete beams were placed over these supports, together with smaller transverse beams, arranged in a grid layout of about a meter wide and supporting the cantilever terrace. EJ Kaufmann was apparently suspicious of the efficiency of Wright’s structural calculation and he secretly ordered to increase the amount of steel in the structure; this caused the anger of the architect who berated his lack of confidence. However, Wright was wrong in his structural calculation. It was due to the extra steel that cantilevers did not collapse, even if in the 90s they already suffered a deflection of up to 20 cm. Post-tensioning works carried out in 2001 succeeded in stabilizing the structure, but they costed $ 11.5 million, about 100 times the original cost of the house.

Structural Grid. Image by Carlos Zeballos

The first thing that catches the attention of the house is its lack of a "great entrance", as it was customary at the homes of the time. By contrast, the front door is hidden at the back of the house. Upon entering, the low ceilings, the large windows and the lack of walls inside the hall lead the view to the landscape. The sound of the waterfall is ubiquitous, but it is invisible inside the house. The stone floor and the fireplace also covered in stone is fused with the rock on which construction is embedded. The interior design seems be a part of the house and the art collection, mostly composed of Asian and Latin American art, helps to give an air of mystery to the space.

First level (courtesy of WPC)
First level. Image by Carlos Zeballos

Interior of the living room (courtesy of WPC)

A large terrace extends in front of the Kaufmanns’ bedroom, visually integrated to the landscape. Something that caught my attention is that the toilet has also large windows to the outside, unlike the typical W.C. which is a closed cubicle. Nobody can deny that EJ had style even while going to the toilet... Unlike the W.C., the bathroom is located in an inner part. The dressing room is a more opaque volume, where Wright implemented a vertical window that runs through all three levels.

Second level (courtesy of WPC)
Second level. Image by Carlos Zeballos
Master bedroom. Photo courtesy R. Bean

Much smaller is the third level, which houses the room of Edgar Kaufmann Jr. These are basically a small space for the bed next to the terrace, also widely lit by windows (the windows have no frame in the corner, which gives a remarkable transparency and were an innovation at the time) and the study, where eventually Edgar moved because his "bedroom" was very small. There is also a connection between the two terraces, although it has probably been little used.

Third level (courtesy of WPC) Third level. Image by Carlos Zeballos
E. Kauffman Jr.’s bedroom. Photo courtesy R. Bean

After Fallingwater was finished, it became clear that the guest room on the second level would be insufficient for its frequent visitors, so Wright was commissioned to design a separated guest house, a little higher than the main house. Both are connected by a semicircular staircase whose ceiling (supported by metal tubes on just one side to strengthen its ethereal character) folds following the slope on the ground.

Access to the guesthouse. Photo courtesy R. Bean
The guest house retains the layout of the main house and it also enjoys magnificent views and a swimming pool.
Guest house (courtesy of WPC)

More than 2 million visitors have made the pilgrimage to Fallingwater in this hidden American forest. The famous actor and architecture aficionado Brad Pitt recently said: "I had a visual sense of the Fallingwater, but experience it in person, hearing the sound of the waterfall running under the house and the aroma of the wood in the fireplace, was better than anything I could have imagined .... ".Well, computers still cannot reproduce the smell of wood in the fireplace, but this movie made by people from Digital Urban, gives a very impressive approximation of the house and its surroundings.

The contextualism of the house with the landscape, using a modernist architectural language, the rich articulation of the interior surfaces in accordance with the dramatic exterior volumes, the subtle integration of its furniture and its valuable artistic heritage make Fallingwater the most outstanding piece of architecture in the United States, which influence continue today. As Toker wrote "There was never a house like Fallingwater. There will never be again."

Thank you so much Dr. Ernie and Sandra Manders for your kind hospitality!

Friday, August 13, 2010


Photo courtesy of Vicctor .

By Carlos O. Zeballos Barrios *


Some years ago Dr. Carlos Zeballos Barrios issued a publication on about the Society of Jesus in Arequipa, Peru. On this occasion, I have the honor to reproduce a few fragments of his work in this blog, a double honor not only because he is my father, but because of the quality of the text that describes this remarkable South American mestizo-baroque monument, built in white volcanic stone and, as part of the historic center of Arequipa a World Heritage Site by UNESCO .

Volumetric sequence of the vaults and buttresses of the church, viewed from the cloisters. Photo courtesy of Cesar Estrada .

Arequipa and the Society of Jesus were born in the same year: 1540. Indeed, a Spaniard, Garci Manuel de Carbajal, founded the "Villa Hermosa", Beautiful Village, in the Arequipa valley on August 15. In Rome, six weeks later, another Spaniard, Ignacio de Loyola, succeeded in receiving Papal approval for his newly established religious order: the Society of Jesus. This coincidence must have been a forwarning of an intimate, fruitful and longlasting interrelationship, over the extensive fertile and variable history. Survivors, Arequipa of the earthquakes and bombings and the Jesuits of expulsions and persecutions, today the city shines, with legitimate pride, with the art and faith that men of the Company planted and cultivated.

The Church of the Company faces diagonally to the Plaza de Armas of Arequipa , and provides a spatial continuity through the atrium.

Aerial view of the complex. Photo courtesy of the architect Carlos Rodriguez

The temple of the Company and its adjacent cloisters are without any doubt the most stunning expression of the baroque Arequipan school, which has exercised its influence not only on the churches built around the city, such as Cayma , Yanahuara , Paucarpata and Characato but also extended its influence throughout the southern Andean region as far as Potosi in present-day Bolivia, leaving true architectural jewels like the Cathedral of Puno , Santa Cruz de Juli , Pomata Santiago , San Pedro de Zepita and San Jeronimo de Asillo .

Church of La Compañía from the Plaza de Armas before the earthquake of 1868

According to the Spanish historian Bernales Ballesteros, the genuine mestizo art originated at the very entranceway of La Compañía and here the Hispanic-American transculturization successfully reached its peak. It is quite evident that the general plan came from Spain, but the forms created by the chisel in these stones, the sensibility demonstrated in the extensive area of the relief and the motifs utilized in the decoration are distinctively native.

Devastation after the 1868 Earthquake

The original plans of this magnificent temple were made by Gaspar Baez. Unfortunately, the work he began in 1578, collapsed in the earthquake of 1582. Eight years later, the Jesuit Diego Felipe began the second construction of the temple, according to Gaspar Baez’s plans. According to Dr. Alejandro Málaga, there is evidence of a third building begun around 1650 and completed in 1667, but damaged by the earthquake of 1687. The reconstruction and restoration works were completed in 1698. The earthquake of 1868 destroyed the tower, the new bell tower, made according to different design, was destroyed in the earthquake of 1960.

La Compañía during the reconstruction of the earthquake of 1868, with its new tower.
The church around 1900


It consists of two floors. The lower floor has three lanes between the double columns. The central lane continues into the upper floor, maintaining the double columns and topped by a three-lobed pediment. In the main lane of the lower floor the solemn front door, made of cedar wood, is adorned with large spikes of that period. Over the door, on the second floor there is a beautiful niche that serves as a window. A sea shell and a rosette ornament the vaulted niche, below which projects a bracket or abutment, which in the past supported a large stone cross, in the opinion of Fr. Jose Luis Maldonado, S.J. In the upper area another small niche is lodged in front of the former, and on its abutment is a sillar sculpture of Saint Michael the Archangel.

Photo courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.
Let's go back to the lower floor. The frieze shows a young vine branch with geometric rosettes and medallions. The four pairs of columns rest on a pedestal of black stone, carved geometric designs; each column is decorated in its lower third by zigzag moldings, and finishes in Corinthian capitels with acanthus leaves.

Photos courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.

The intercolumnation or space between the pillars, is decorated with bas-reliefs of cherubs and a shield with the words EL AÑO and DE 1698.

Photo courtesy of Srtaconbici

Over the exterior double columns of the first floor, above the entablature, there are pieces of curved and prominent gables, and upon them, some beautiful pinnacles, slightly skewed.
On the second floor the decorative motifs are repeated in the double columns and entablature, with the difference of the moldings on the columns, which are in spiral. In the frieze are carved the anagrams of Mary and Joseph, to the sides, and Jesus the center. On both sides of the niche there are bicephalous eagles, symbol of the Habsburgs, under whose reign the church was built.

Photo courtesy of Prof Elephant and Fabian f

Looking at the broader picture of the facade, the most striking aspect is its profuse decoration. se debe destacar la habilidad para entrelazar armónicamente elementos decorativos peninsulares, como las lacerías mudéjares, o motivos churriguerescos, como racimos de uvas, rosetas o granadas, ángeles y querubines, veneras compostelanas y mascarones renacentistas, con elementos incaicos y preincaicos que reproducen máscaras nazquenses, o ese curioso gato-tigre con cuerpo de miriápodo, propio de la mitología altiplánica. All spaces have been filled by various decorative motifs in bas-relief, forming a thick mat that overflows its sides in beautiful contrast to the flat surface of the wall. There is no shortage, of course, representations of local flora, such as corn and Cantuta.

Photo courtesy of Franco Cericola

Let’s look now at this beautiful gate located to the right of the main facade. Today is closed, but at other times served to communicate to the cloisters of the College. On one side can still be seen on the wall a number of inscriptions in red paint, almost obliterated by the action of time, reminiscent of the graduation of students of the College of Santiago, which operated until 1767.

Photos courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.


This facade was designed and built by stone-cutter Simon of Barrientos in 1654. It is considered one of the oldest examples of mestizo art Arequipa, which indicates points from the complicated tapestry of the main facade. In its originality, it calls to mind former style from the beginning of the century.

Photo courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.

A very open pediment, the triangular gable elevated over the half archway of the door, lodges under a large venera shell (symbol of the Santuary of the Apostle Santiago de Compostela), the bas-relief of St. James, whom the temple is dedicated. The Apostle appears in warlike attitude, horseback riding and sword held high, beheading Moors, whose heads, along with the emblem of the Crescent are trampled by the horse's feet. The animal’s mane unravels in an original way with great spirals. In the lower part of the wall there is a carved abutment supported by two sirens with angel wings.

Photo courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.

The columns with Corinthian capitals are decorated at the bottom with zigzag moldings, a motif that is repeated in columns on the first floor of the main facade. On the capitals there are friezes depicting the Lion of San Marcos and the Bull of San Lucas. Over the cornices of the entablature, the pinnacles produce a harmonic equilibrium. Between the columns we can see a small ledge at the foot of a shield with the monogram of Jesus (IHS) and a simple decorative theme.

La distribución interna de la iglesia corresponde a la planta basilical jesuítica, con una nave principal centro y dos menores a los lados, cúpula de media naranja en el crucero, bóvedas de cañón, santuario, sacristía y coro alto. The internal layout of the church corresponds closely to the Jesuit basilica plan, with the lesser ones on either, the cupola at the intersection of the cross, shafted vaults, a sanctuary, sacristy and choir loft.

Church plant. Image courtesy of Dr. Carlos Zeballos Barrios
A series of Ionic semi columns attached to thick pilasters or square columns separate the pilasters or square columns separate the arches. Formerly all the interior surfaces of the church were multicolored and can still be admired in the of San Ignacio. Now the walls appear with the unadorned sillar.

Photo courtesy of Yoli Yoli .

The carving on the main altar is a magnificent composition of purest churigueresque Baroque style. It is the work of master sculptor Juan de Salas, who used 447 pieces of cedar and oak, alder and some 21 sticks of willow and lloque. Covering this marvel of carved wood is a generous layer of gold gild, which the rays of the sun emits beams of fire. The tabernacle, made of embossed silver, is the work of master Pedro Gutierrez.

Photos courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.

On the right side of the nave there is another beautiful altar, also carved with gilded wood. It is called the "Altar of the Founders," because there are images of several founders of religious orders.

The Altarpiece of the Founders. Photos courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.

Very close to this altarpiece is the pulpit, beautifully carved in wood work and bathed in gold leaf.

Photo courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.

Near the entrance, in the same right nave, there is the statue of the Righteous Judge, a beautiful carving recently restored: the image that runs every in Holy Week in the Tuesday procession in the streets of Arequipa. Su retablo es de reciente confección. Its altarpiece is of recent manufacture.

The former sacristy of the church, now known as St. Ignatius Chapel is a beautiful example of colonial Arequipan art. One is stunned by the extraordinary colors of its walls and the cupola, whit the vigor and intensity it has maintained over the centuries, with only slight alterations.

Photo courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.

The luxuriant decoration reproduces a tropical atmosphere, with extensive vines alternated with exotic flowers, nuts and brightly colored legendary birds. Clearly, the constant relationship of the Jesuits in Arequipa with the missions in the rainforests was the determining factor for this kind of ornamentation.

Photos courtesy of Ojos de Agua .
The dome is half orange, with a skylight at the top: On the ledge that supports you can see 8 pictures of saints with their relics.


Among all the convent cloisters built in colonial Arequipa notably those of La Compañía, not only for its rich ornamentation, but also for its grandeur and originality. The luxurious decor seems to speak of the endless imagination of the authors and the desire of not copying anything from the known styles. “It is rarely possible to contemplate something more original and beautiful, "says architect Harth-Terre.

The construction of these cloisters was initiated in 1677 under the direction of Lorenzo de Pantigoso, a famous architect who was appointed "Mayor Worker for the reconstruction of the city" after the 1687 earthquake, as it has been investigated by Alejandro Málaga Medina.

An army of laborers, black slaves, Indians and Spanish, worked and modeled the ashlar brought from the quarries of Chilina. The date of completion of works, 1738, appeared in the entry arch until 1973, when he was removed to make way for the expansion works of the cloister, by decision of Architect Luis Felipe Street.

In these environments ran the notorious School of Santiago, as the Juniorate of the Jesuits, but not for long. Being expelled the Jesuits in 1767, the administration of the Cloisters, like its other properties, passed to the Oratory priests of St. Philip Neri.

Photos courtesy of Christian Osorio Rodriguez

In 1788, at the request of the Bishop Chávez de la Rosa, part of the Cloisters was designated to an Hospice for orphans and foundlings. With the creation of Public Welfare of Arequipa in 1848, this institution took over the orphanage and introduced reforms in the Cloisters.

Photo courtesy of Yoli Yoli

In 1921 it was agreed to build a more suitable facility for the Orphanage at the Goyeneche Ave., for this purpose, the Cloisters were divided into eight lots and sold at public auction. The new owners profoundly changed the beautiful cloister, part of which was dilapidated, and some other became precarious housing. Finally, in 1971, the Banco Central Hipotecario acquired the old cloisters and undertook an intensive and complete restoration. One can appreciate its fine results today.

Photos courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.

The entire complex consists of a a Claustro Mayor, a Claustro Menor and a patio. Adjacent to the church and architecturally blended with it, the cloisters demonstrate today an ancient splendor and an overpowering character with its 40 rooms. The Claustro is one whole unit, with semi-archways of heavy pilasters fully decorated on all four sides. Each sides exhibits identical reliefs, of three thick clusters of grapes, papayas, shells, cantatas, roses, grape leaves overflowing from flower pots and winged cherubs, all of circumscribed by two stems that intersect several times. En cada clave se repite la misma roseta simétrica, y en cada enjuta un medallón con los monogramas latinos de Jesús, María y José; además querubines y dos pequeñas figuras de San Ignacio y San Francisco Javier. In each keystone the same symmetrical rosette is repeated, and in each corner medallion with the monogram of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Latin; also cherubs and two small figures of San Ignacio and San Francisco Javier can be observed.

Photo courtesy of Christian Osorio Rodriguez

At the extreme top of a narrow architrave, there are gargoyles to drain rain, in the form of stylized puma. The frieze has four-leaved rosettes, and all this ends in a wide stylized cornice.

Photo courtesy of Christian Osorio Rodriguez

In the middle of the yard there is a graceful fountain with phyto-and zoomorphic motifs, brought from Lima.

Photo courtesy of Carlos O. Zeballos B.
En la actualidad los ambientes de estos claustros están ocupados por tiendas, establecimientos comerciales y entidades afines al turismo. Currently the area of these cloisters environments is occupied by stores, business offices as well as tourist shops.

Spatial sequence of the cloisters.

* Professor Carlos O. Zeballos Barrios holds a doctorate in education and he is an award-winner and pioneer of tourist publications in Arequipa, with his book Arequipa, la Única (1979), among many other publications, covering topics such as photography, tourism, education and classical languages. While officially retired from the Santa Maria Catholic University of Arequipa, where he taught for many years, he continues giving lectures by invitation of this university. For the publication of "The Society of Jesus in Arequipa" (1981), he received the advice of distinguished historians and architects.