Edgar j. kaufmann was the owner of a prosperous department store chain in the Pittsburgh area. His son, working as one of Wright's apprentices at the Taliesin Fellowship, convinced him to fund the construction of the Broadacre City model for a nationwide exhibition tour. When Wright and Kaufmann met, the rapport was instantaneous. Together they visited the cottage that the magnate had in a Pennsylvania wood, and in a matter of days Wright conceived what is without a doubt one of the world's masterpieces of residential architecture (see A&V 12).
After years involved in developing cost-saving systems for the average American home, a then jobless Wright suddenly found himself with a singular commission and an affluent client. The site contributed decisively to the uniqueness of the solution: the building was to be placed directly over the waterfalls. Thus its name ‘Fallingwater'.
Wright's principal obsession in this project was the fusion of man and nature. In the attainment of this end he did not skimp on means, whether imaginative or technological. Hence the house seems to grow out of the rocks that border the stream; its parapets evoke the fallen stone ledges lying in the stream below; and its textures and colors imitate the stone and foliage of the place.
The building is developed around a massive stone core for the fireplace and stairways at the rear of the property. Two ‘trays' emerge from it horizontally, with terraces bordered by amazingly low parapets. The lower one - running parallel to the flow of the stream - contains the large living room and hangs directly over the cascade, sustained by three transversal walls which are practically invisible from outside. The second tray, set perpendicularly to the first, projects farther out, giving whoever looks down from it the vertiginous sensation of floating in the midst of a woodland.
Calculating and constructing the daring cantilevers was a problem: the engineers were sure they would not hold and said so on several occasions, and the workers refused to bring down the scaffolds. Not even today could one obtain a permit to erect such a building.
In 1963, Fallingwater was presented to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and it counts among the 17 buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright that are under the protection of the AIA… [+]
Night view from upper terrace.
Ezra Stoller, Paul Rocheleau.