Weitzman News

  • Lindsay Falck standing beside his visitors pavilion prototype at the Gordion Archeological site in Turkey in 2009.

Lindsay Falck: A Tribute

We all, in our various ways, got to know Lindsay Falck. For some, Lindsay was a teacher; others, a mentor and colleague; some took great care of him; while–still others–were drawn in by his wonderful stories. He was an inspiration, a loyal friend, a colleague, and a consummate gentleman.

Lindsay’s gentle, generous ways with students and colleagues, his ready enthusiasm and his incredible depth of experience and knowledge, left an indelible mark on the Weitzman School. Here, a selection of individuals who studied or worked with Lindsay reflect on his life and his contributions to architecture and teaching in his native South Africa and in Philadelphia. To add your voice, contact news@design.upenn.edu.

Memorial gifts are currently being accepted to the Lindsay Falck Fellowship Fund at the Weitzman School. Those interested in contributing to the Fund may do so through our online giving page – please mark your gift ‘in memory of Lindsay Falck.’

Lindsay Falck (1934–2020), architect and teacher.

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


Author’s note: I am grateful to the following individuals for speaking to me about Lindsay: Karen Falck, Carl Falck, Tony Santos, Dennis Playdon, Iain Low, Tarna Klitzner, Paul Truscott, Julian Cooke, Lucian LaGrange, Dennis Pierattini, Richard Farley, David Gouverneur, Ignacio Bunster-Ossa, and Paul Hirshorn.

Richard Farley

Adjunct Professor of Architecture, Weitzman School

What a human being! Lindsay lifted us all by championing the unique talent within each of us. He was the consummate, caring teacher, with the trust of the students. Lindsay was the one to turn toward when affirming words were needed for a discouraged student who sought him out for advice and counsel. He was unwavering in support to the faculty, sharing his expertise and talent without limit. We collaborated and co-taught lectures in each other’s courses with Lindsay emphasizing to the students the everything that they were learning at Penn was tied together and related to architecture.

He had a deep passionate love for his wife and his children. He showed it and he told me - often. I have known Karen as long as I have known Lindsay. They were a perfectly balanced couple - their love was recognized and admired by the faculty, staff and students, and Karen generously shared Lindsay with all of us and supported his efforts.

I am heart-broken over Lindsay’s passing. I think of all that he has done for Penn over the years and I miss him tremendously. However, I find myself smiling when I reflect on the amazing times that we had together.

Once Bill Braham, Lindsay, and I, with Nadia Alhasani (who taught case studies), were invited to present our highly regarded technology program at an ACSA national conference. Our spirits were high, and we joked at our similarity to the Tin Man, Lion (Lindsay, the South African) and Scarecrow skipping toward Oz with Nadia, playing a willing and ebullient “Dorothy”. We were a smash hit! The camaraderie and warm feelings are what I remember most. A few days before we left for the conference, Lindsay approached me, his jaw lowered and eyes set level, to ask in his soft, firm, lilting voice, if he could share my hotel room. In doing so, a student could attend the conference and join the spotlight presenting work that she had done with him at an excavation site in Turkey. As you can image, I was the one who benefitted the most from the arrangement - talking, laughing, and listening to Lindsay well into the night.

Lindsay and I served as Arch 600 technology studio critics for a number of years. He encouraged gently and listened intently to best guide a student’s work forward. Lindsay focused on their ideas and concerns, using his vast knowledge of design and construction to help them clarify their thinking and improve their project.

I remember talking to him soon after he was the victim of a late-night robbery attempt, ending when a bullet parted the hair on the side of his skull. Lindsay carried no anger; only hope for the fellow who he had wrestled to the ground. We all knew that Lindsay had been working that night at Meyerson Hall until three in the morning on our behalf.

Lindsay was cherished by my whole family. At the beginning of one semester, Lindsay saw me finishing a conversation with a slender, ponytailed student. As I moved to talk to Lindsay, he commented that the students are so incredibly bright and that the student that I was talking to asked very astute questions in his class. A week later, Karen enlightened Lindsay that the student was my daughter, Libby Farley, who, at six-years old, had attended his surprise sixtieth birthday party with me. Then, again, there were times that Lindsay highjacked me to Addams Hall to spy on a pastel drawing or sculpture project being crafted by my son, Alex, who was a fine art major. Lindsay delighted in their work and keenly followed my children’s careers as he did for thousands of his other students. Alice and I were appreciative when he would attend the annual party for the Arch 500 class we held at our house and lead his famous “Six Sips” toast.

Arguably, there are no words - certainly not enough words - for me to express my deep respect, gratitude, and admiration of Lindsay. Perhaps a visit to the Architectural Archives to view his incredible drawings and illustrations best displays Lindsay’s passion for architecture, love of teaching, and generous inspiration and advice given without bounds. He has left an indelible mark as beloved professor. 

Frank G. Matero

Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation

Legacy is a word and concept familiar to many but in the context of human and cultural resources, it is inheritance--all that is worth passing on to help inform what comes next.  In older, more retrospect societies such as in Japan, people as well as things are legacy, in so much as they embody knowledge or wisdom.  Lindsay Falck was such a person.  In the thirty years I knew him, not a day passed where he did not share something of value. During our often tedious but never boring travels to or from destinations in far flung places-Anatolia, Lake Titicaca, the slums of Cairo-Lindsay could conjure up some relevant bit to make a connection, to things, to people.  It was a real gift.  With sketchbook and fountain pen in hand, he conquered our illiteracy in the Turkish countryside with endless sketches to get designs built be they lifting machines, pavilions, or Adirondack chairs.  In Cairo, he taught the principles of ‘bending moment’ to a crowd of street kids while pouring a reinforced concrete beam having designed the beam, made the form, and mixed the concrete. During these trips our team’s favorite game was to collect up random bits of things and give them to Lindsay to challenge him to make something. He was never at a loss.  There is so much I will miss about him: the stories, the orchestra, the drawings, the shop projects, even the clutter. Farewell Old Friend, the halls of Meyerson will be dull and lifeless without you.    

David Gouverneur

Associate Professor of Practice in Landscape Architecture

Lindsay was very special to me. While Academia can be very rewarding, it can also be a hostile and competitive environment, people seem to be always on guard. With Lindsay it was different. He had nothing to prove to anyone. He was smart, knowledgeable, honest, solid, transparent, kind, and caring.

Lindsay offered us many gifts and lessons:

  • His absolute and generous dedication to education.
  • His joy of working with students and seeing how they engage, and advance.
  • He always had a positive word for students, praising their efforts, creativity, and results.
  • He was an eternal fighter for social justice and inclusion.
  • His love for detail and craftmanship was exemplary.

I inherited two tangible products from him: some 20 concrete-casted blocks made by a group of his students in the plaza in front of Meyerson which I accommodated as a permanent installation in the center garden of the pedestrian street where I live (Madison Square, between 22nd and 23rd Streets). Also, I had bought early 20thcentury tiles in a flea market in Barcelona. Lindsay aligned them and embedded with perfection in a wooden frame, and told me, hang it vertically. It is my most cherished object, now on a wall in my dining room.

He used to tell me, we need more Latinos around the school, we need their character, dedication, cultural openness, and flexibility. As we did back home, Latinos rely less on the bureaucracy and institutional support, “we just go on and we do it”.

Some years ago, Dean Taylor organized an activity which she called Idea Week. Interdisciplinary groups submitted proposals to design and construct installations within or outside of Meyerson. The chosen groups would receive $2,500 to acquire materials. I decided to test my Informal Armatures approach, envisioning a real-scale mockup of a fostered informal neighborhood on the vacant site adjacent to Women’s Walk, currently occupied by student residences.

Over 50 students joined the experiment. We used my old SUV as a workstation, while we traced onto the land the guiding lines of the settlement with poles and cords. It was getting dark and we had not “stolen” yet the electricity from the neighboring buildings. So we decided to call it a day; at which point, we realized that my car battery was dead. Who to call to the rescue: Lindsay of course, who left his home to assist me.

He entered the site with his vehicle and followed the insinuated streets to the main plaza. He was thrilled with the experiment, recalling his early work in his homeland. He was early to show academic interest in informal settlements, in his homeland, acknowledging the creativity of the communities to construct their own habitats, taking advantage of limited resources, recycling materials, with ingenious constructive solutions. He was enthusiastically greeted by the students as the “town’s” Mayor. Most of those in the crowd had been his students, learning about similar technical skills and gaining social awareness. At this point, Penn Police agents entered the informal plaza to arrest the motorized trespasser, not knowing that we had permits to occupy the site and to access it with service vehicles. With his eternal smile, Lindsay remarked “this is the power of education, to always passionately share the ideas that we believe in with the younger generations”.

Every year, Lindsay would ask me to talk about informal settlements in his technology class, since he believed that our students had to understand that close to a billion people around the world build their own communities, and that we can learn so much from them but we also can contribute to overcome problems they present. I am a bit absentminded and not good at keeping agendas, I was taking a break  home relaxing in a hammock when I received a call from the LARP Department; David, are you lecturing for Lindsay  today at 3:30. It was 2:25.  Damn!!!!! Of course.

Never had anyone crossed the Schuylkill riding a bike so fast. I snuck into B-3 behind him at the moment he was saying “I wonder where our guest speaker may be?” Aquí, Professor! I could not have imagined this would be the last time I was doing it for him. In the Fall 2020, I will offer a studio on fostering new informal settlements in three sites, two in Latin Americas and one in Africa. The course will be a small tribute to Lindsay.

Gary Hack

Former Dean and Professor Emeritus of City & Regional Planning

Lindsay was my assistant dean for operations during the first half of the years I was dean of the School of Design. He was a one-man band, looking after everything that had to do with space and facilities. He oversaw our transition from drafting rooms with T-squares and triangles to desks with plug-ins for student computers, printers, and other equipment. Most of the first workstations were designed by Lindsay and built in our shops. In fact, he also managed a second transition which created flexible studio spaces that could be re-organized to support group work. Lindsay created the covered spaces for our graduations and designed a magnificent tensile structure that we hoped to build, but it was scotched by the university’s worries about liabilities during high winds. He loved nothing more than building things and creating well-used environments. I couldn’t have been dean without his help.

His teaching was equally effective. Having students construct scale model sections of groundbreaking buildings was a way to have them learn precisely how structures were put together. The sections graced the hallways of Meyerson Hall as an inspiration to all who admired fine buildings. He taught construction methods and pushed students to see construction and spatial design as one unified problem. A generation of architects left Penn with his habits of mind ingrained in their practices.

It is hard to believe that Lindsay taught until his final days. For all these years he was irreplaceable! He had the love, respect and admiration of all he touched. Lindsay will be long remembered.

Annette Fierro

Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Architecture

Reading Bill Whitaker’s history of Lindsay was an amazing treat for me, and only more confirmation of the great diversity of thinking that Lindsay brought to the halls of Meyerson. I have known Lindsay since 1993 when I walked in the door, through generations of students, across the different movements and ideas and people of the school. Never ever did I hear anything but the most gracious words come out of Lindsay’s mouth. Most often it was, ”Come here Annette, look at this test I just drew up.” (He knew I would salivate at his line drawings.) “Annette, have you seen this drawing done by my students?” Lindsay, ever delighted Lindsay, could certainly be irreverent and even delightfully naughty but was never damning, never ideological, never even impatient. He was always thrilled to see the quality of the students’ work on the walls: “Annette, can you believe how good our students are?”  Year in year out, and always completely sincere. Lindsay’s mind was an open one. He was gifted in the translation of the matter of buildings into the stuff of drawings. But he could also work backwards. Knowing that students were not yet able to imagine material reality from the abstraction of a line in a wall section, he would cart in a full-scale wall section that he had built up himself to illustrate the point. Literally “cart in,” in a little wagon or a dolly. I imagine that from then on students knew exactly that that thin line on their wall section was actually a thick piece of waterproofing. So while his knowledge was about construction, his talent was in knowing the deep tricks between envisioning and imagining material and knowing how to represent it, and therefore build it. His generosity was certainly extended to me personally as well. Somehow he always kept track of what I was thinking about, always engaged me in it, in the halls, in my office. He once brought in 15 years of original copies of Architectural Design for me, from 1960–1975, knowing that I would almost faint. Lindsay, the monitor of the hallways, the cypher of students’ imagination, the ever-present witness to the work at Penn, he was the heart of our school. Oh my friend, how I will miss you.

Winka Dubbeldam

Miller Professor and Chair of Architecture

In the 2020 graduation ceremony held on May 16th, the faculty and graduating students of the Department of Architecture joined me in a tribute for Lindsay Falck. We were the lucky ones to have Lindsay for over 37 years in the Department of Architecture. His teaching and especially his case study course was legendary and the physical student models lining the hallways of Meyerson were phenomenal. Each year Lindsay would refresh them, and let us all know: “ I could remove them anytime”.  Of course, this never happened as we all loved those models, and the amazing precision and dedication they presented.

In 2014, during my second year as chair, Lindsay turned 80. I produced a book for him as a present, and the reactions blew me away. I sent a note to all the faculty, current students, and alumni from many many years ago, and I was amazed that almost instantly we received a storm of messages, drawings, and beautiful notes. We bound all these in an 83 page book that we presented on his birthday. It was an amazing celebration with Lindsay, his friends, colleagues and family. 

As we said goodbye to all of our graduating students and we welcome them as alumni, we did not know we were also saying our farewell to Lindsay as we were thanking him for the amazing time he spent with us.... Lindsay was the most fantastic and warm person, an amazing teacher who we will miss dearly.

Meredith Keller (MSHP'09)

Lindsay seemed like a person who would live forever, which makes his loss unfathomable. Our thirteen years of friendship spanned just a small fraction of his long and extraordinary life. Even so, he frequently and fondly recalled our summers working together in Turkey, calling me on occasion to remind me how much I was appreciated. He was an endless source of encouragement, jokes, life stories, optimism, energy, kindness, and wisdom. He will be sorely missed by many. Big hugs to you, Lindsay!