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7 / Domestic Life

Fallingwater (exterior)
Fallingwater (exterior)
Artist / Origin Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959)
Region: North America
Date 1936–38
Material Concrete, steel, stone, and glass
Dimensions 5,330 sq. ft. (1,625 sq. m.)
Location Bear Run, PA
Credit ©Robert P. Ruschak, Courtesy Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

expert perspective

Lynda S. WaggonerVice President of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy/Director of Fallingwater

Fallingwater (exterior)

» Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959)

expert perspective

Lynda S. Waggoner Lynda S. Waggoner Vice President of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy/Director of Fallingwater

Fallingwater—it’s so hard to talk about what it does to people and how perfect it is. It’s both an intellectual experience and a visceral experience. It sort of hits you in the gut. I think Fallingwater was unprecedented. There has never been a house—a country house for a wealthy patron in the woods—that suggested anything like what Fallingwater is or does to people.

Fallingwater was commissioned by the Edgar Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh. It’s the perfect coming together of Wright’s needs, the Kaufmann’s needs. Wright wrote to Kaufmann and said he was designing a house to the music of the stream for Mr. Kaufmann. And I think that’s exactly what he achieved there. It is a house that is so harmonious with the site around it. There is something in human beings that want to reconnect with nature and that house is that bridge that allows it to happen. It’s in some ways arrogant to imagine that you could take on a waterfall. But Wright did. He made it more complete, more beautiful. It’s sort of the joining of nature and man, man’s genius together.

Like any great masterpiece, it never bores you. I constantly find new relationships, new things happening in the house. It so reflects what goes on in nature. Themes are reiterated throughout the building. There is a continuity of materials, surfaces, color, throughout the house. That whole progression on the site—of coming down the path crossing the bridge, going into the house, experiencing the spaces from the inside, having these vantage points looking out, getting a glimpse of the waterfall, a piece of it, from an odd view over it, a piece of the stream—all of that experience comes together at the very end when one leaves the house and walks down the path to the view of the house over the waterfall. That’s the climax of the whole experience.

I heard someone once refer to Fallingwater as Frank Lloyd Wright singing. And I think that’s what it is. It’s a joyful experience just to be in the house, to be reconnected with the landscape. And I think that’s what it does and that’s why is speaks to us in such a profound way.” 

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