Located on a farm near Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater residence, High Meadow serves as home base for students of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Fallingwater Institute’s summer residency programs in architecture, art, and design.
Positioned between forest and field, High Meadow rests lightly on a network of nimble steel columns and delicate tectonics. Four modest units and a screened porch have been added to an existing cabin that accommodates the summer programs. By leveraging the functions of the existing cabin— kitchen, dining, and a small communal area—resources were focused on the creation of four new units and a screened indoor/outdoor common space. This practical and sensitive solution allows the Conservancy to double the reach of its programming, while keeping within budget and creating only minimal disturbance to the site.
Approached from beneath a canopy of trees, a simple wooden walkway rises gently from the forest floor to the elevation of the new porch. The porch, with its vaulted wooden ceiling, opens to vistas of the meadow and hills beyond, and serves as the heart of the facility. Running parallel to the forest edge, a dark slatted wall—made of spruce harvested and milled on site—stitches the four units and the central screened porch together with the original cabin. Flanked by the slatted wall, a screened walkway leads from the porch to each dwelling. Dappled light, fresh breezes, and curated views into the forest provide a rich experience. Beyond the four units the walkway and slatted wall continue on, dipping and dissolving into the meadow, connecting to a path that leads down the valley to the Fallingwater house.
Along the screened walkway, seating nooks flank the entrances to the units, providing places for people to read, sketch, and gather in small groups. The units are modest in size, each containing two twin beds, a small desk, closet storage, and a full bathroom—half of which are ADA compliant. The rooms belie their size as full frame windows reveal expansive vistas to the meadow and valley beyond. An exterior angled shroud at the end of every unit catches cool breezes rising up from the valley below and shields the naturally ventilated units from the heat of summer sun.
Materials and finishes are deliberately simple and durable. Cabin exteriors are clad in cedar stained shale gray. Cork flooring is used throughout while shower surrounds are lined in Pennsylvania slate. Built-in shelving and furniture is made of plywood, and locally made woolen blankets cover the beds.
Faithful to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s mission to restore, preserve, and foster an appreciation of the natural world, High Meadow complements its rural setting in both form and function, and provides students of all ages the opportunity to study and experience the surrounding landscape.