Historic Structures

Falling Water - Frank Lloyd Wright House, Mill Run Pennsylvania

Date added: March 20, 2020 Categories: Pennsylvania House

Fallingwater on Bear Run is a summer house built for Pittsburgh millionaire Edgar J. Kaufmann and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wayne Andrews has called it the "most famous modern house in the world" while Vincent Scully proclaimed it "one of the complete masterpieces of twentieth-century art." The house, cantilevered over a waterfall, has come to be one of America's most renowned buildings, appealing not only to architects, but to the general public as well.

Kaufmann, a Pittsburgh department store owner, gave Wright the commission for a retreat, a beautiful home, elevated over a waterfall, its wings reaching out into the air, as part of the natural landscape. Its relationship to its surroundings is like that of a tree house, a made thing that is utterly natural. Wright himself writing in Architectural Forum (1938) stated that this house "has no limitations as to form." "Fallingwater" is almost impossible to describe and very difficult to photograph, the site is spectacular, the house changes from different vantage points and the scale is elusive.

Fallingwater exploits the site as few other structures have before or since, secured to a rock the cantilevered balconies float in the space over the swiftly moving stream. Equally beautiful when approached on ground level, the three stories of the main house combine visually with the massing of the guest house above to produce a monumentality, even in its domesticity. Visitors are surprised by its comparatively few rooms, a living room, three bedrooms and service rooms all extended by balconies, terraces and canopy slabs that project off the house in all directions.

The interior spaces are as beautiful as the exterior. Wright did not believe, as have many architects before and since, that a house should be an empty stage for human action, capable of being changed at will. Wright built in furniture, used flourescent lighting as an aesthetic element which imitates daylight or is used as indirect light when it is not needed as direct illumination for reading or at a desk. Structural materials are generally the same on both interior and exterior, the flag paved living room floor continues to a stair dropping to: a plunge pool under the house. The windows at the corners hold glass sealed against glass so there is no visual interruption and reveal the area Edgar Kaufmann describes as combining "the beauty of a mature forest, massive sandstone boulders, a wild, free-flowing stream, and a forest understory covered with native rhododendron, laurel, and typical Appalachian wildflowers."

Fallingwater exemplifies Wright's own philosophy; "Architecture is the triumph of human imagination over materials, methods, and men." The house enhances the site and has become symbolic of man's respect for nature and his acceptance of a partnership with the environment.

The house was given to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy by Edgar J. Kaufmann in October 1969. It is maintained and interpreted for visitors by appointment.

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