Architects : Frank Lloyd Wright, Edgar J. Kaufmann
Year: 1934
Owner : Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Location: Mill run, Pennsylvania 

" merging man with the surrounding landscape..."
"one of a kind..."
"It is a work of man for man; not by a man for a man..." 

     Photographs of Fallingwater, a private home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s are certainly as beautiful as they are plentiful. The home is so stunning, in fact, that people who heard of it or saw a photograph after it was built travelled to the mountains of Pennsylvania to see it for themselves. This wasn’t a fleeting fad; visitors are still just as drawn as they were over eighty years ago. It is ironic that the home has been photographed so much. A picture can say a thousand words, it’s true. But a thousand words aren’t enough to describe Fallingwater. 
      Fallingwater is more than a home, it is more than a structure that bears its name. It is remarkable and stands out among other architectural works as much for its setting as it does for its design. There are as many reasons a person wouldn’t want to build on the land as the Kaufmann family, who’d enjoyed vacationing there for years, had for embracing it and choosing it as their home. Wooded acres surrounded by more wooded acres, a waterfall and streams and creeks, and not-so-gently rolling terrain isn’t land usually considered prime for building. But Fallingwater was built on just such land and has since become such a part of American history that the property can hardly be imagined without Fallingwater there. The mist from the nearby waterfall and the stream that runs beneath the home catches the light and covers the view of the foundation, creating the beautiful illusion that the home is floating in air. As spectacular a sight as Fallingwater is to behold, it seems to belong, as if it’s always been there, blending seamlessly in color and strength with the towering trees that still stand tall  around it. The land seems to have been designed for Fallingwater as much as Fallingwater was designed for the land. This takes nothing away from Frank Lloyd Wright’s brilliant work. The acclaim and recognition he received for his design was well-earned. He was given the daunting task of designing a large, luxurious home that would sit above a waterfall, fit into the natural beauty of the land and be structurally sound, and he did just that. The fact that he was so remarkable he made it look simple speaks even more to his ability.  
The building materials and elements of structure incorporated in Wright’s design were chosen meticulously and with a clear purpose. Wright’s aim was not only to build a home that complimented its surroundings, he wanted to respect the beauty of the land as it was, to compliment it, not alter it for the sake and convenience of a tidy building lot. He began with a picture in his mind and his God-given artistic talent and blended those intangibles into several years of the work and planning that had to be done before the first stone could be laid. Wright’s ability to look at what was and imagine a structure so bold and seemingly impossible as Fallingwater is remarkable enough. His design was everything it would never have been in anyone else’s hands. Stone, reinforced concrete, straight, no-nonsense lines, imposing cantilevers and balconies that jut out as if they’re breaking through the canvas of a picture-perfect painting instead of blending in nicely – it sounds like a building designed for the big city, needing to stand out and draw attention to itself over all the noise and hustle and bustle. His idea may well have been questioned initially, it might have been doubted by some who couldn’t quite square his idea with a home in the mountains, cool, crisp mornings and relaxed evenings, enjoying the quiet sounds of nature. Hindsight always gives more clarification of something experienced than any expectation or preparation of something to come. However, Wright seems to have had the clarity that comes with hindsight as well as the wisdom and experience to know that designing the Kaufmann home would require more than his usual process of design, it would require a vision that would go far beyond the obvious and expected without stopping before the point of making perfect sense. And as much as the design of Fallingwater conflicts with any definition of a country retreat, the home that was built from that design simply does not. It is a magnificent and inspired example of modern architecture.

     Building finally began in 1936 and the home was completed in 1939. At first glance, Fallingwater seems to be a modern work, and it is in that it’s in the style of American Modern architecture. But it is also a design that still feels truly modern. It still seems fresh, as if it were built just a few years ago. Not knowing better, it would be as plausible to believe Fallingwater was built twenty years ago as eighty. It certainly speaks to the timelessness of Wright’s work. Stone is an obvious choice for a building material which would add both beauty and strength to a structure, especially one on a scale such as that of Fallingwater. Concrete, however, was probably a less predictable choice of material, especially given how prominently Wright used it in a design for a home that was to be in aesthetic harmony with nature. Concrete was used not only to reinforce the striking cantilevers of Fallingwater, it became part of the aesthetic of the building as much as the sandstone used so artfully in the design, adding beautiful distinction to the home and, at the same time, making the home a part of the landscape. Grand but not gaudy. Magnificent but unpretentious. 

     To ensure the stability of the structure, Wright incorporated several reinforcement techniques which were considered state of the art at the time. However, the naturally high humidity in the area led to eventual structural compromises, including mildew damage and weakening, shifting balconies. Eventually Edgar Kaufmann, whose parents had built Fallingwater years earlier, turned the home and over 1,000 surrounding acres of land over to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy completed major structural repairs to Fallingwater in 2002 after extensive examination of the home revealed increasing structural compromise. Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. said of his family’s home, “Such a place cannot be possessed. It is a work of man for man; not by a man for a man. Over the years since it was built, Fallingwater has grown ever more famous and admired, a textbook example of modern architecture at its best. By its very intensity it is a public resource, not a private indulgence.”

     The American Institute of Architects voted Fallingwater the most important building of the 20th century; in 1966, Fallingwater was designated a National Historic Landmark. And it is the only home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to be opened to the public complete with the original interior, including furnishings and artwork.A bold architectural work in structure and design juxtaposed with the quiet serenity of the land on which it was built, Fallingwater demonstrates the intricacy and comprehensive forethought of Wright’s process. The result was a home with such an ethereal quality it seemed to float in air yet strong, solid and sound, built to stand every test of time.