Fallingwater is widely considered one of the most beautiful homes ever designed. The architect (Frank Lloyd Wright) was awesomely good at designing buildings that elevated the human spirit.
But someone that is not as widely recognised is the guy that commissioned the weekend retreat from Frank, and drove him hard to reach something that he also believed would make a great home. His name was Edgar Kaufmann, and he was a successful retailer from Pittsburgh with a pretty awesome sense of what made a good building.
One decade after Kaufmann commissioned Fallingwater, he and his family wanted to build another house in Palm Springs California. They began a relationship with Richard Neutra, and together designed the Kaufmann Desert House, which has also gone on to be considered one of the top homes ever built, and the best example of an International Style home in the US.
I’ve written before about the power of having well calibrated standards, and I guess Kaufmann should join the ranks of calibration heroes like Steve Jobs. These are people that know it’s not enough to simply hire a great designer and let them loose. The designer needs to understand the constraints, and have a strong critic that pushes them to achieve ever more within these constraints.
Note to 80’s style managers: this is very different to backseat driving and micro managing. With those annoying habits, you try and tell your experts what tactics they should use to do their thing. Instead, setting a great brief is about helping the expert understand your objectives, and letting them work out the tactics to achieve those.
Enough talk from me… you should just go and ogle at 2 amazingly beautiful homes:
Weird end note: One of the later owners of the Kaufmann Desert House was actually Barry Manilow. Perhaps he did have some taste after all