To start off my new blog project, I chose one of my favorite works of architecture by my favorite architect.
Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright (1935)
I can’t stop looking at this amazing work. Every photo of it that I’ve ever seen has enraptured me with awe and wonder. When I look at it, I can’t believe it was designed in 1935! It’s incredibly modern and sophisticated, and yet it’s fully at one with its natural environs. Wright called his philosophy of architecture “organic,” and most believe that this building comes as close as possible to that ideal. Using natural sandstone quarried only a few miles away, the work seems to rise up from the ground as if it grew there. The cantilevered terraces hang out over the waterfall of a stream known as Bear Run, where the original owners, the family of Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr., used to camp out on summer vacations. Kaufmann Jr. deeded the house and the surrounding 1,543 acres to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963. The Conservancy conducts tours of the home, and it is my dearest hope that one day I will be able to visit the site myself.
The Conservancy maintains a gorgeous website about the house, including numerous photos and videos. This too-brief clip from the Ken Burns documentary about FLW is a shortened version of a segment I used to show to my students. It talks a bit about the house and how it was developed over the waterfall. Part of the clip that’s missing, though, is a story told by one of his former apprentices, who was present when the building was actually designed. Wright had received the commission from Kaufmann, had visited the site, and then did nothing with it for months. Finally, Kaufmann called and said he was driving from Milwaukee to Wright’s home and studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin, about 140 miles. Wright sat down and started to draw, and two hours later, he had finished the plans and had even named the building. When Kaufmann arrived, Wright met him at the door and famously said, “E. J., we’ve been waiting for you.”
If I have any readers, I hope you will take the time to watch the short video clip (it’s less than two minutes) and investigate the website. Fallingwater has been called the most famous residence in the world not belonging to a royal. I would venture to say that it deserves to be even more famous than the palaces of any royals due to its innovative and creative design, the pinnacle achievement of America’s most important and influential architect.