Fallingwater: Statement of Significance

earthwhistleUrban and Civil

Nov 25, 2013 (3 years and 8 months ago)


Fallingwater: Statement of Significance

Fallingwater, a private residence improbably suspended over a waterfall, is less than a
two hour drive Southeast of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, halfway between the villages of Mill Run
and Ohiopyle

on Route 381. It is one of the greatest examples of organic architecture ever
created and a masterwork of Frank Lloyd Wright, one of America's most important architects.

The history of Fallingwater began in 1934, when Pittsburgh department store owner
dgar J. Kaufmann, an exceptionally successful businessman, and his wife Liliane hired Wright
to design a personal weekend retreat on their land in Mill Run due to the deteriorating condition
of their cabin. The Kaufmann’s son, Edgar Kaufmann jr. studied ar
chitecture under Wright
briefly in prior years. This area was frequently used by the family for their camping expeditions.
Incorporating much of what was already on the site, including rocks, trees, and a rushing creek,
the house was set amid 5,000 acre
s of natural wilderness that juts out over a waterfall on Bear

During one particular interview Frank Lloyd Wright stated: “There in a beautiful forest
was a solid, high rock
ledge rising beside a waterfall, and the natural thing seemed to be to
ilever the house from that rock
bank over the falling water. . .Then came of course Mr.
Kaufmann’s love for the beautiful site. He loved the site where the house was built and liked to
listen to the waterfall. So that was the prime motive in the design.

I think you can hear the
waterfall when you look at the design. At least it is there, and he lives intimately with the thing
he loves.” During the time of construction, concrete technology was being pushed to the limits.
The building was constructed of

sandstone, reinforced concrete, steel and glass, and built by
local craftsmen. The stone serves to separate reinforced concrete trays, forming living and
bedroom levels dramatically cantilevered over the waterfall. Wright saw the cantilever as a
dly natural principle, as in the outstretched arm, or the tree branch growing from the
trunk. He thought that engineers had failed to grasp its real potentialities; that, with imagination,
it could become the most romantic and most free of all principals
in construction. The house
extends above the rock ledges, although strong horizontal lines and low ceilings help to maintain
an overall sheltered feeling in the interior space. The stone façade for the home was laid in
random courses which gives the hous
e a more natural and organic look. The guest and service
wing, which is literally the “detached fourth floor” of the home, was completed in 1939, and
connects to the main house by a unique canopy. Both interiors feature Wright
designed built
which complements the main design. The unique attraction of the house is the waterfall
over which it is built. At the time of completion, the original budget of the home and guest
house was not to exceed the $30,000 price range. After completion, the ho
me, guest house,
finishing, furnishing, and architect’s fee totaled $155,000. The completed result boasted a
structure far modern in style and form compared to any residence constructed during the 1930s.

Fallingwater remained the weekend home of the Kauf
mann family from 1937 to 1963,
when the house, its contents and grounds were donated to the Western Pennsylvania
Conservancy by son Edgar Kaufmann jr. Fallingwater is one of the sole remaining Wright
designed houses with its original setting, furnishings,

and artwork intact

just as when the
residence was occupied by its original family.

The masterpiece was opened to the public by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in
1964. The visitors pavilion contains the exhibits on Fallingwater, a café, an interpre
tive nature
trail, and a museum shop. Guided tours are scheduled regularly. Designated a National Historic
Landmark, Fallingwater also was named by the American Institute of Architects in 2000 as the
“Building of the Century.” Edgar Kaufmann jr. once st
ated: “Fallingwater is famous because
the house in its setting embodies a powerful ideal
that people today can learn to live in harmony
with nature. . .As technology uses more and more natural resources, as the world’s population
grows even larger, harmon
y with nature is necessary for the very existence of mankind.”