May 11, 2001

TT-philes Unite In First Annual North American TT Gathering
Article and photos by George Achorn

Somerset, PA - Even critics will agree, the Audi TT is all about design. From the revolutionary and much copied exterior to the awe-inspiring controls that appear as a work of art, Audi pulled no punches in designing this unique automobile. Considering the emphasis on design, it was fitting that Peter Grabowsky, Larry Joffe and the other organizers of the First Annual North American TT Gathering chose to focus their meet around two exemplary designs by one of North America's foremost architects - Frank Lloyd Wright.

As this event began to take shape organizers knew that they wanted to create a meet that was primarily a sociable get-together and one that would be memorable, with a secondary focus on the usual performance-oriented direction that car events usually gravitate towards.

As the brainstorming for event locales began, the one that drew the most attention definitely became visitation of two Frank Lloyd Wright homes located in Western Pennsylvania. One of these houses could be the most famous house in the country, if not the world.

The first, Fallingwater, is probably Wright's best-known work. Perched atop a waterfall, this summer house built for the Kaufmann family, of Kaufmann department store fame, is one of Wright's most definitive designs depicting his primary theme of molding a house in with its surroundings. From the long flowing vertical use of glass to the constantly waxed stone floor, portions of the house mimic the water itself, while cantilevered cement structures mimic the naturally cut stone formed over years and years of water flow. Following donation of the property by the son of the original owners, this enormously famous house is now part of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Built later in Wright's career, Kentuck Knob was designed as a year-round home for the Hagan family, a well-known dairy and ice-cream family of the time. Much like Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob blended with its environment, being built into the side of a hill rather than on top of it. The Hagans lived in the house until Mr. Hagan's failing health forced them to sell it in 1985 to Lord Palumbo, an English businessman with a flair for collecting architecture and artwork. Since then the Lord has peppered the large grounds with an eclectic and exciting collection of artwork including an actual piece of the Berlin Wall. While still privately owned, Palumbo has opened the house to the public, is a regular visitor and occasionally stays in the home.

When touring these two homes, it becomes strikingly apparent just how much thought has gone into the design. For every point you might pick up on, such as Fallingwater's sliding door above the water creating natural air-conditioning, one can only imagine just how many other details go unnoticed. Wright went so far as to design the actual furniture for the houses, and then designed in narrow hallways and small doors to prevent homeowners from removing the furniture and thus detracting from the original designs.

It's probably a fair statement that TT owners are a different breed. Some know little of Audi and simply love the car, while others are Audiphiles to the bone. Regardless, all have a great appreciation for design and social interaction that centers on and transcends the TT itself. It is uncanny, once amongst them, just how friendly and dynamic they all are, gearheads or not. Spending time with them is a truly unique experience.

The event itself started off on the rainy evening of Friday, April 20th with the largest number of privately owned Audi TTs to gather in North America, 78 at last count, converging on the parking lot of a Holiday Inn located in a sleepy little town called Somerset, just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Having both directions of the Turnpike closed due to a random sinkhole, many TT owners found themselves in a parking lot before they even got off the highway. Our Nimbus Gray TT 225-hp roadster, on loan from Audi of America, rolled through the Somerset Toll Plaza two and a half hours later than expected.

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