Perched on a rock above a gushing waterfall, this historic house was built for a Pittsburgh family by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s, ingeniously designed to blend harmoniously into the tranquil and beautiful woods around it. Wright is regarded as one of American architecture’s most influential figures. During his de- cades-long career as an architect and interior designer, Wright perfected a prolific number of designs, with his iconic Fallingwater at the forefront.
Wright described this 1930s home as “one of the great blessings to be experienced here on earth.” Inspired by the architect’s desire to integrate human-made structures into the natural world, Fallingwater typifies organic architecture. As Wright’s signature style, understanding the philosophy behind organic architecture is key to grasping the significance of the famous Fallingwater house.
Wright coined the term “organic architecture” in the early 20th century. Deeply rooted in his love of nature, organic architecture’s primary intention is to unify buildings with their environments and visually blur the line between built structures and natural habitats.
In 1935, Wright was commissioned by the Kaufmanns, a prominent Pennsylvanian family, to replace their deteriorating summer home. Nestled along a stream in Bear Run, an Appalachian reserve, this property was a perfect fit for Wright, whose nature-inspired approach had attracted Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann. Wright reportedly designed the home in a single morning in 1935. When designing the unique abode, Wright made one very surprising decision: to build the home above the property’s naturally-occurring waterfall.
Regarded by the Kaufmanns as the centerpiece of the estate, they had hoped to have a view of the cascade. Nevertheless, they trusted Wright, who reassured them with a philosophical promise. “I want you to live with the waterfall,” he told them, “not just to look at it, but for it to become an integral part of your lives.”
Wright found ample inspiration in this natural feature, whose cascading forms directly inspired the home’s exterior. To reflect the look of the fall’s jutting stone ledges, he opted “to cantilever the house from that rock- bank over the falling water,” resulting in the house’s organically stacked appearance.
Fallingwater’s facade also showcases Wright’s meaningful approach to materials. The external walls are com- posed of locally quarried Pottsville sandstone and reinforced concrete. This concrete concoction, in turn, is made up of cement, sand, and rounded river gravel. The home’s “trays,” or terraces, are coated in stucco, which Wright painted a neutral and nature-inspired ochre color.
Wright also designed Fallingwater’s interior with nature in mind. At the center of the home is a sandstone fire- place built around two unmoved boulders. All accents are painted Cherokee red, a burnt crimson color remi- niscent of lumber. Similarly, the floors are stone and the walls are covered in unwaxed cork. Large, corner-less windows welcome “the natural environment into the house as well as enticing its inhabitants out.”
Fallingwater houses 170 decorative art pieces designed by Wright that channel the outdoors through both look and feel. Finally, the house grants easy access to the outdoors in creative ways, including a staircase that takes visitors from the living room directly to the stream!
The Kaufmanns owned Fallingwater until 1963, when Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. donated the house and its 1,500 surrounding acres to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. “It has served well as a house, yet has always been more than that, a work of art beyond any ordinary measure of excellence,” he said. “Itself an ever-flowing source of exhilaration, it is set on the waterfall of Bear Run, spouting nature’s endless energy and grace. House and site together form the very image of man’s desire to be at one with nature, equal and wedded to nature.”
Now a museum, the site welcomes eager architectural fans from all over the world. Featuring a range of tours tailored to visitors’ interests, exploring Fallingwater firsthand is an ideal way to appreciate this great blessing. With over 4.5 million people who have come to marvel at the beauty in the 5,000 acre nature preserve. The home also includes a café. There are different tours to choose from. A one hour tour costs $30 per adult and $18 per child (6-12.) You can also hike the grounds for a small fee. The home is located at 1491 Mill Run Road, Mill Run, PA.
Not far past FallingWater is another wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright home atop a hill overlooking Ohiopyle State Park. The home is called Kentuck Knob. This small one story Usonian house is designed on a hexagonal module. (Usonian- meaning affordable for the average American.)The home is still used and it features interesting objects collected by the current owner. The staff that runs the tours are very knowledgeable about Wright’s work on the home and his style. If you do not plug in the home’s actual address, GPS may take you to Polymath, another Frank Lloyd Wright home that is 45 minutes away. Use address- 723 Kentuck Rd, Dunbar, PA 15431
Also visit Frank Lloyd Wrights Duncan House at Polymath Park. Lunch and dinner tours are available. 187 Evergreen Lane Acme, Pa., 15610, (23 miles from FallingWater). Built in 1957, the home was saved and dismantled from its original location in Lisle, Ill., and in 2007 relocated to Polymath Park Resort. After many months of complex craftsmanship, the home reemerges as a stellar example of Wright’s Usonian designs and the culmination of his magnificent career. The Duncan House is now fully preserved within the Park offering tours and lodging.
You will need tickets in advance for all three House tours. Tours resume on March 9th of this year. Visit: https:/fallingwater.org/visit/tours/fallingwater-tours/