Somewhere in the backwoods of Western Pennsylvania stands a house called Fallingwater designed by the iconic twentieth-century architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ve always wanted to visit Fallingwater—considered one of Wright’s masterpieces—and I finally did.
I grew up in Buffalo, NY, where I never tired of walking past the two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in my neighborhood—the Darwin Martin House and the Walter Davidson House, both prime examples of the Prairie School of architecture Wright popularized featuring large roof overhangs and banks of horizontal windows. I’m moved by Wright’s innovative vision and artistry, by his sense of line and shape and space, and by his desire to harmonize a structure with its natural habitat. He is the kind of artist who draws me in and delivers an emotional experience.
Fallingwater is in a class of its own. Built in 1937, it sits on top of a waterfall and has a stairway descending from the house’s interior to the stream and an adjacent plunge pool. The house is characterized by large cantilevered sections and private terraces on each floor. In several spaces, the surrounding boulders and rock formations are seamlessly integrated into the interior of the house.
Wright was a pioneer of today’s popular open-concept design. The house has a large, open living space, with a fireplace and built-in furniture, and small and separate bedrooms. The kitchen is modest, designed for a hired cook. Its original owners, Edgar and Liliane Kaufman of Pittsburgh, commissioned the house and used it primarily for entertaining. Within a year of the main house being built, a guest house was added.
Made of locally-quarried sandstone, reinforced concrete, and steel-framed windows, Fallingwater became famous shortly after being built. It’s also had some issues over the years, with the stream causing leaks, and the dramatic cantilevered sections requiring bolstering. But when you’re an artist, you don’t always compromise your vision for practical matters. That’s what art is.
I hope you enjoy some of these photos.
Bonus Frank Lloyd Wright
Simon and Garfunkel wrote a little-known song called So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright, a track on their album “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Short, pretty, and worth a listen.