How would you like to eat, sleep and lounge on top of a waterfall? It may sound like a fairy tale, but for the Kaufmann family, Frank Lloyd Wright made it possible. Today the house is available to the public for tours, although you do need to schedule and purchase tickets in advance. In the meantime, come along to admire it virtually.
Like Beethoven straddles Classical and Romantic eras in music, Frank Lloyd Wright straddles architectural eras. The Fallingwater house was designed and built in the 1930s, but its linear, window-filled design, building materials of concrete, steel, a simple color scheme and cohesion between inside and out all bear strong resonances with homes of the midcentury.
Situated atop Bear Run Falls in the Allegheny Mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, the extraordinary home made a splash, appearing on the cover of a 1938 issue of Time upon its completion. Built as a weekend home for the Kaufmann family, it offered the successful department store owners an extraordinary place of repose. In 19XX, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. gave the home to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to preserve and share the home with the public.
An expansive 5,300 ft—2,445 of which are terraces—Fallingwater reflects not only Wright’s organic design but also the Kaufmann family’s love of entertaining. They had specified the need for several bedrooms. After the completion of the main house, Wright continued his work on the property with a separate guesthouse and servant’s quarters.
Wright continued his brilliant organic design and attention to detail indoors. He designed walnut furnishings and used stones from the river in the fireplace hearth. The open spaces of the house, living rooms and dining room, feature prominent windows to enjoy the view of the forest. The glass seems to disappear into the stone walls—Wright designed recesses in the stone where the caulking and glazing is hidden from view. He also intentionally designed the bedrooms on the smaller side to encourage those within them to spend their waking hours out in the open spaces.
An architectural feat and beautifully integrated with its environment, it remains a hallmark of American architecture. For more on the home, its history and design and to schedule your tour, visit fallingwater.org.