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Fallingwater (or the Kaufmann Residence) is a house designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959). It is located in south-western Pennsylvania, USA, and lies 43 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Ever since seeing photographs of it, many years ago in a book on modern architecture, the author of this webpage has always wanted to visit and was fortunate enough to be able to in 2017. It is perhaps the design's ability to integrate modern living into natural landscape with the effect of enhancing its beauty, rather than diminishing it that has brought about this unique residence's personal appeal.

Wright was born and educated in Wisconsin and after setting up in practice in Chicago, became an established architect for low rise prairie-style houses, built as low-long structures. Perhaps the most famous American architect of the 20th century, he is regarded as the leading designer of modern private residences built to conform with the natural features of the surroundings. His other designs include that of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

Fallingwater is one Wright's most famous works and was built at a time when his style was beginning to evolve. The house was built between 1936 and 1939 after he was hired in 1935 by Edgar J. Kaufmann, owner of Pittsburgh's premier department store, to design a retreat in the western mountains of Pennsylvania where he could spend vacations with his family. They were particularly fond of a stream known as Bear Run on land they owned, where set amongst woodlands, it flowed over a waterfall and they wanted the house to blend beautifully into the natural surroundings. What Wright did, to their surprise, was to design not a house where they could view the scenery from, but one which would be built over the waterfall itself, thus allowing them to live within the scenery rather than adjacent to it. Prior to the design taking place, Wright asked Kaufmann where on the estate he liked to sit. When shown a rock above the waterfall, he decided that this very rock should be the hearthstone of the house.

The reinforced concrete building is dug right into the rocks over the waterfalls with the outcrop of rock appearing from the floor in the living room. The main rooms of the house are fairly simple and not huge. The good sized living room and a compact kitchen are to be found on the main floor, whilst above sit three bedrooms. The living space has no conventional room dividers, with each floor leading into the next and then onto the exterior. Much of the furniture, which was also designed by Wright, is built into the fabric of the house. The main rooms and the balconies are cantilevered away from the centre and it is the latter shooting out which truly give the house's look one of sculpture and not just modern architecture. Limestone verticals and a large stone chimney, rising through all levels at the rear, anchor the building, whilst walls of glass minimize boundaries between the inside of the house and the surrounding forest. Although Fallingwater has had structural problems in more recent years,  making it expensive to maintain, the seemingly gravity-defying double cantilevered balconies are sound, which is a testimony to the engineering skills of Wright and his associates.

Fallingwater is the only example of one of Wright's buildings to be on display in the setting exactly as it was designed. It is a National Historic Landmark and over 5 million people have visited here since 1963, when it was entrusted to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC). For further information, a link to the official website may be found Here. Further photos from the visit may be viewed in the thumbnail gallery below (click to enlarge):

The photographs on this webpage were taken in August 2017 and are subject to copyright. They are uploaded on the basis that this personal page is not for profit. In any event, according to the information stapled to the admission ticket, these digital reproductions "shall be the property of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy".

References and Further Reading

1. In situ information boards and literature.
2. Hoffmann, D. (1993). Frank Lloyd Wright's fallingwater, the house and its history. New York: Dover.
3. Crystal, D. (1995). The Cambridge biographical encyclopedia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
4. Cook, S., Edwards, N. and Shaw, A. (2017). The rough guide to the USA. London: Rough Guides Ltd.
5. Glancey, J. (2006). Architecture. London: DK.
6. Irving, M. and St. John, P. (2008). 1001 buildings you must see before you die. [London]: Cassell Illustrated.
7. Knight, C. (2003). Essential Frank Lloyd Wright. Parragon Book Service Ltd.

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