Lindsay Falck (1934–2020)
Dyer Alfred Lindsay Falck, 86, simply “Lindsay” to all who knew him, died peacefully at his St. Marks Square home in Philadelphia on May 18, 2020 of kidney failure.
Born in Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa on April 23, 1934, Lindsay was the son of Roberts Redvers Falck, an analytical chemist, and Audrey Isobel Pedley. His grandfathers and namesakes, Dyer Berry Pedley and Alfred Emil Falck, were immigrants to South Africa. The former, a Regimental Sargent Major in the British Army, served with distinction in the Boer War and settled in the Cape region where he became a successful dairy farmer. The latter, a Norwegian seaman who left his ship at Durban, found his fortune as a diamond prospector – a Rand Pioneer – and later as a mine manager in Kimberly during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
Lindsay spent his early years with his family at the mining outpost of Koegas where his father was employed as a General Manager for the Cape Asbestos Company. It was an isolated place, surrounded by the scrub land and arid desert landscapes of the Northern Karoo. The nearest town, Prieska, was some 50 miles to the south and Cape Town, 500 miles overland by train. Their compound, called “The Square,” included the family home, general store and post office, in addition to a generator for electricity and windmill and storage tank for water. Lush palm trees filled the family’s garden and provided Lindsay and his elder sister Aurea with a play area and space for their imagination and curiosity to blossom. His father took the time to nurture Lindsay’s curiosity about the workings and making of things at both small and large scales. “Bob” (as everybody called him), taught his son how to work with all manner of tools and techniques; woodworking was his special interest and practical necessity drove much of their creative efforts. Summers were spent at Knysna, an idyllic spot on the Indian Ocean surrounded by primal forest, where the family enjoyed the mild climate and, most of all for Lindsay, snorkeling in the “no shark” lagoon and the joy spending time with his father fishing and crabbing.
At the age of 5, Lindsay was sent off to boys boarding school, first at St. John’s in Johannesburg and later to St. Andrew’s in Grahamstown where he completed his secondary school education (equivalent to American high school) in December 1950. It was a difficult environment, one that was not always supportive of a student’s individuality: uniforms, strict codes, bullying, and corporal punishment. “You had no time to complain. You simply got on with it,” Lindsay recalled.
Somehow his boarding school experience did not break or embitter Lindsay. Rather, it deepened him and made him a more compassionate and empathetic person. At school, he frequently corresponded with his father, who helped him think about how to do things, and he excelled in swimming, particularly the butterfly. In one swim meet (where second place received a cash prize rather than a first-place trophy) Lindsay slowed down just enough to get the money – which he promptly used to by an engine for a model airplane.
Lindsay enrolled in the School of Architecture at the University of Cape Town (hereafter UCT) and started classes two months shy of his 17th birthday. The school, established in 1937 under the leadership of Englishman L.W. Thornton-White, was structured on the socially aware model of the Architectural Association school in London. Part of what made the place special for Lindsay and others was the fact that his professors all were in active practice; what and how you build was actively discussed in the field as well as the studio. In 1955, Lindsay won the School’s Helen Gardener Travel Prize and visited Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe), Kenya, and Zanzibar and Tanganyika (now Tanzania) with its proceeds, and went on to receive his Bachelor of Architecture in June 1956. His thesis project – a hydroelectric station on the Zambezi River that incorporated a tensile cable-net shade roof and a “water wall” for evaporative cooling – received the school’s top grade, a first-class pass.
Immediately after graduation Lindsay went to work for Thornton-White as an assistant (and later senior assistant) preparing working drawings for the new School of Architecture building – the Centlivres Building – for the UCT campus (1956-59). It is remarkable, but perhaps not surprising, to learn that before Lindsay reached age 25, he had married, had three children (two of whom were conceived before he completed his thesis), and built – to his design and largely by his own labor – a ground-breaking modern house located at 22 Thistle Street in the Newlands section of Cape Town (1956-58). More than a few contractors involved in the construction of the Centlivres Building at UCT found themselves working on the Falck House. “We had wonderful times in that house,” Lindsay recalled in 2013, “always with a lot of the neighborhood children in and out. Cars and go-carts were built and rebuilt, and surfboards were made in the basement workshop…”
In 1960, Lindsay began his association with architect Revel Fox, a leading modern architect of South Africa. Fox had just opened his own office and Lindsay was one of his first employees. He worked with Revel on the Ballet School at UCT, the La Cock House, and the Deanery for the St. George Cathedral in Cape Town, for a period of nine months before the jobs dried up and he found temporary employment in the office of Ezra Greenblo. As soon as Revel got more commissions, Lindsay was asked back as his chief assistant, becoming a partner in 1965. Lindsay was design partner-in-charge for the EOAN Group Cultural Centre / Joseph Stone Theatre (1965-69); B.P. Centre, a 31 story office tower with mixed use spaces in surrounding low-rise buildings (1966-73; now 1 Thibault Square); and the School for Botanical Studies at the National Botanical Gardens in Kirstenbosch (1966-70). But his standout project was the Montebello Apartments in Newlands – a complex of 108 medium rise apartments and 4 townhouses (1963-68). All four projects received Bronze Medal Awards for Design Excellence from the Cape Provincial Institute of Architects. Lindsay recalled how the Fox office “worked and reworked every project relentlessly, trying to get the conceptual ideas clear so that they could guide the development of the project down to the finest detail.” At Revel’s recommendation, Lindsay received a Ford Foundation Travel Grant, through the Institute of International Education’s “Young Artists Programme,” in 1966. He traveled extensively through the United States and Europe visiting architect’s offices, including personally meeting Mies van der Rohe and Louis Kahn. His primary focus was research into high-rise buildings in Chicago and New York which became the subject of his master’s thesis, “Technology and Urban Form, Chicago 1830-1972,” completed under Tony Santos in the M.U.R.P. program at UCT in 1972.
It was during this period that Lindsay began his 25-year teaching career at the UCT; first in a part-time capacity as a lecturer (ca. 1961) and then in 1968 – after leaving the Revel Fox partnership – as full-time faculty with the rank of Associate Professor. He played an important role in restructuring the undergraduate program in the mid-1970s (convening the three-year Architectural Studies program) and went on to serve as the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Dean of Faculty. Lindsay taught virtually everything, from studio to theory and professional practice courses; but his core interests and classes were in the area of construction technology. He undertook several studies and design-build projects working with students to aid communities of color forcefully removed by the Apartheid government from homes in desirable areas to the desolate Cape Flats. These projects included urban planning and infrastructure guidelines for informal settlements in the “Elsies River” area of Cape Town, an ultra-low-income region of approximately 120,000 people (1971; with Adèle and Tony Santos), and later, under the aegis of UCT’s Field Projects Research Unit, a community center at Manenberg (1974-75) and school buildings and a mobile medical clinic for the “Crossroads” squatter camp (1978-79). For his exceptional teaching, he received the UCT’s Distinguished Teacher Award in 1983 – a university wide recognition.
Between 1968 and 1985, Lindsay maintained an independent practice alongside his teaching duties. Working under the leadership of Roelof Uytenbogaardt, Lindsay developed (in close collaboration with Adèle and Tony Santos) a series of housing prototypes for the Crown Mines Properties in Johannesburg (1968-71). He designed many houses in Cape Town, including the Browne House at 14 The Valley Walk, Constantia (1967-68) and the Wixley House at 23 Garton Road, Rondebosch (1968-69). In collaboration with Michael Lowe, he prepared an urban design plan for the Marina De Gamma and designs for 34 demonstration houses in the first phase of construction (14 of which were built), as well as the marina Visitors Center (1971-74). While teaching and administrative demands at UCT limited his professional practice after 1975, Lindsay consulted on construction and technology matters for the firms of Gabriel Fagan, Revel Fox and Partners, as well as Prinsloo Parker, Flint, Elliott and Van der Heever.
In the spring of 1983, Lindsay was invited to teach at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Fine Arts (hereafter Penn) as a visiting critic. For several years, he split his teaching between UCT and Penn before moving to Philadelphia in the fall of 1986 on a full-time basis as a Lecturer. Although Lindsay was never standing faculty at Penn, he did serve administrative roles as Associate Chair for the Department of Architecture under Adèle Naudé Santos and Alan Levy (1986-1995) and, under Dean Gary Hack, as the Assistant Dean for Facilities Planning (1995-2003). In addition, Lindsay taught part-time evening classes to working students at Drexel University’s Westphal School of Media Arts and Design, where he served as an Adjunct Professor for 29 years (1988-2017). Lindsay’s knowledge and experience in building construction and technology enabled him to teach across Penn’s programs in Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Historic Preservation. He twice received Penn’s G. Holmes Perkins Award for Distinguished Teaching (2005 & 2013). He retired from full-time teaching at Penn in June 2018 after 32 years and continued part-time thereafter right up to March 2020 when his deteriorating health brought an end to his long and impactful teaching career.
Professional collaborations with Professor Frank Matero and Penn’s Architectural Conservation Laboratory included the design and construction of a series of dig-shelters and viewing platforms in support of archaeological excavations at Çatalhöyük and Gordion in Turkey, and for sites at Chiripa, Bolivia and Angkor Wat, Cambodia. For the Aga-Khan Trust, Lindsay brought his expertise in building technology to the conservation of a series of 125 houses and other structures in the historic Aslam Mosque neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt (2002). At the former 1964 World’s Fair site in Flushing Meadows, New York, he designed and developed a method to safely extract the terrazzo mosaic components of “The Texaco Road Map” art pavement of the New York State Pavilion for conservation.
When it came to understanding how things worked, Lindsay’s interests were wide and varied. He spent 10 years restoring a 1926 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud Hearse that he purchased for £200 from local undertakers – filing the massive 12-cylinder engine block by hand until it gleamed – and reconditioned a classic 1967 Moto Guzzi racing motorcycle that had been burnt out in a crash (a friend recalled seeing it completely disassembled with all the pieces laid out on an impeccably white sheet). He loved astronomy and even ground his own telescope mirror. “Lindsay was drawn to and vitally interested in the making of things,” recalled his long-friend and colleague Tony Santos, “especially things that required physical and mechanical ingenuity in their making. He had a very, very fertile mind and an amazing craft awareness, not in the old fashioned or retro definition, but through his meticulous concern for being involved in all aspects of making.” He will be remembered for his integrity, his dedication to work, to his students and colleagues, and above all else, for his great and good heart.
Lindsay is survived by his wife of 34 years, Karen (neé Goldman), and their two children, Ailsa (Boulder, CO) and Toren (Philadelphia, PA), his children with his first wife, Rose (neé Kinsey): Carl (London, UK), Kevin (Portsmouth, UK), Ingrid (London, UK), and Alan (Cape Town, South Africa), and his nine grandchildren.
--William Whitaker, Curator of the Architectural Archives