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  • World Architecture

    Fallingwater

    Pennsylvania
    The architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater 1934 1937 for the Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann and his wife Liliane, on Bear Run, Pennsylvania, in the mountains southeast of Pittsburgh. The spectacular house cantilevers over a 20-foot 6-meter waterfall amidst a wilderness. Widely admired for over sixty years, Fallingwater has been calledthe most famous residence ever built in 1991 the American Institute of Architects hailed it asthe best all-time work of American architecture. It is probably the most beautiful house of the twentieth century, some say of any century. Bear Run Nature Reserve, the 5,000-acre 2,000-hectare area surrounding Fallingwater, and the house itself are now owned, maintained, and protected by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Throughout the 1920s and well into the next decade, Wright had little work. He publicized himself through writing and a traveling exhibition he called itThe Show in the United States and Europe, but despite the efforts of his friends, his poor financial management put him deeply in debt. In 1932 he established the Taliesin Fellowship in Wisconsin, a residential apprentice system in which aspiring artists and architects paid for the privilege of working for him. Among them was Edgar J. Kaufmann Jr. Impressed with what he saw during a 1934 visit to Wrights Wisconsin home, Taliesin, and by his sons enthusiasm, Kaufmann Sr. commissioned Wright, who was then sixty-five years old, to design a mountain retreat for his family. The waterfall on Bear Run was a favorite spot of the Kaufmanns, and they wanted to build nearby. There is a tradition that Wright made the final design after only one visit to the site: the surprising idea, accepted by his clients, was that the house should sit over rather than face the waterfall. Fallingwaters four levels are progressively set back to lie low against the forested hillside their terraces, apparently suspended in space, echo the form of the waterfall. Wright built the house around a core containing a kitchen on the lowest level and bedrooms on the others it also housed the service ducts. The houses horizontalityWright called it the line of domesticityis juxtaposed against a four-story sand-stone chimney. The lowest floor, a huge living room, is carried on four stub walls and provides the widest views of the site one of its cantilevered terraces faces upstream the other projects over the great boulders framing the waterfall. From the living room, a short flight of stairs leads to a platform just above the creek. It serves little practical purpose, but in summer air from the running water cools the space above. The bedrooms on the second level each have a narrower terrace, and the roomsanother bedroom and a studyon the third level also open to a terrace. Wright used the stairs, terraces, and windows full height on three sides of the living room to integrate exterior and interior, house and site. Architectural historian Spiro Kostof comments that Wrightsends out free-floating platforms audaciously over a small waterfall and anchors them in the natural rock. Something of the prairie house is here still


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