A Guide To Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water

A guide to Falling water, Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, as well as its history and significance.

The natural wonder Fallingwater is recognized as architect Frank Lloyd Wright's most acclaimed and famous works. In 1991, a poll of members of the American Institute of Architects voted Fallingwater the best all-time work of American Architecture. Fallingwater opened a new chapter in American architecture and Wright became the first and foremost architect of houses.

Fallingwater is renown for its simplicity. It is not a skyscraper, it is a home situated in a remote section of Western Pennsylvania called Bear Run. The ingenuity of Fallingwater is its harmony with its surrounding natural elements, most notably a waterfall. Each year, thousands of visitors flock to this remote location to visit the landmark.

In a talk to the Tallies Fellowship Frank Lloyd Wright said of the house; "Fallingwater is a great blessing - one of the great blessings to be experienced here on earth. I think nothing yet ever equaled the coordination, sympathetic expression of the great principle of repose where forest and stream and rock and all the elements of structure are combined so quietly that really you listen not to any noise whatsoever although the music of the stream is there. But you listen to Fallingwater the way you listen to the quiet country."

Wright designed Fallingwater in 1935. The design of the home promotes a harmony between man and nature, so that the buildings, walls and structures within the home are extensions of the exterior world.

Fallingwater was designed for the Edgar J. Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh, the founders of a prominent department store in the city called Kaufmann's. Construction on the project began in 1936 and was completed in 1939. Wright honed in on the Bear Run location because he knew of a waterfall in the area that the family loved to visit. In designing the house, Wright mimicked the natural pattern of rock ledges over the waterfall and cantilevered the house over the falls in a series of concrete ledges, anchored to masonry walls made of the same sandstone as the rock ledges. This view of the home is perhaps the most famous of all. The house hovers right over the rushing mountain stream in perfect harmony. The house extends 30 feet in height above the rock ledges, although strong horizontal lines and low ceilings help maintain an overall sheltering feeling. The outdoor ledges of the home are complete with terraces that overlook the streams and the wilderness surrounding the home. In fact, there is nearly as much floor space taken up by outdoor terraces as there is in the indoor rooms. Inside the home, spaces drift into an array of wooden furnishings, constructed as extensions of the home, rather than furniture place inside a home. The low ceilings curve to nature, not upward to a grandeur interior. Light from the outdoors is designed to naturally illuminate the home.

When the construction of the home was completed in 1939, the Kaufmann family used the home for vacations in all seasons. In the 1950's, the home was inherited by their son, Edgar Kaufmann, the curator at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Kaufmann used the home as a vacation spot until he entrusted it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservatory in 1963. Mr. Kaufmann's gift has been commended by the architectural community. At the time, many of Wright's buildings were being demolished or left in a dilapidated condition. The conservatory has maintained the home ever since as a historical treasure. The conservatory hosts tours through the house year round and thousands of visitors a year from all over the world go to the remote location to visit the architectural masterpiece. Most of the original designed furnishings are still in place. Also in the home are objects of artistic value and other accouterments left by the Kaufmann family.

Wright has said that he could hear the waterfall in the design of Fallingwater. Decades later, millions have been able to hear the waterfall through his awe-inspiring design. As the world grows continues to grow farther away from nature, Fallingwater has become even more of a marvel to man because of its simple principle: man and nature should be able to coexist in harmony.

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