"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Frank Lloyd Wright's "Greatest Work": Fallingwater

I think Frank Lloyd Wright's (FLW) architectural designs are about as close to aesthetically perfect as you can get. Photography is not allowed inside Fallingwater, but I'll try to show some of the outside architectural details that make it so appealing to me, even though I liked the inside even better. I wish I had the architectural knowledge and language to explain why the house is so important and inspiring, but I hope the photos help convey some if it.

FLW had many strong opinions about architecture. One of them was that the building should blend in with it's environment, and not separate its inhabitants from their surroundings. Fallingwater has at least six outdoor balconies or terraces integrated into the living space to allow the resident's easy access to the outside from anywhere in the house.  On the terrace here you can see the upper fresh water swimming pool.

At Fallingwater FLW used a lot of this terra cotta colored concrete. Strange choice I think. Maybe it was the Southwestern influence, but it doesn't seem to blend in with the colors of this environment. Grey, green, beige or gold would seem more natural, like the colors of the stones used throughout the house, inside and out. 

More Southwest influence?

The house is all angles and planes, including the furniture, with a heavy emphasis on the horizontal, which gives it a peaceful feeling. Although aesthetically pleasing to look at, the furniture inside doesn't look very comfortable.  Not contoured and cushy, but angular and flat.  Here's a little peek inside.

Here is where the natural rock that the house was built into meets the concrete. There are iron beams running horizontally into the rock to support the structure of the multi leveled building.

This is the lower fresh water pool.

From one of the upper balconies you can see into the living room, which has glass on five sides here. What looks like the floor of a green house here are a set of sliding windows covering the staircase that goes down to the stream running under the house. 

Here is where the staircase comes out. It was designed so that the owners, the Kaufmans, could dabble their feet in the very cold stream. The lower swimming pool is on the right of the picture. Water is obviously the central theme of the house, and to the left of this picture you can just see the waterfall dropping off just beyond the house windows and decks.

Below is one of the sets of floating stairs in the house.  There were several "floating" features, including the balconies and the roof over a covered walkway. These were accomplished with counterbalances, cantilevers and folded concrete. The house was actually not that stable, and has had a lot of problems with sinking and sagging and leaking, even when the Kaufman's were living in it.  The Fallingwater Foundation has invested a huge amount of money to restore and maintain the building.

Another of FLW's quirks was that he wouldn't build storage areas, like basements or attics, and he wouldn't build garages. Instead he invented the open air style carport (below). He also thought that the perfect human was 5'8" (his own height) and so all the rooms were built to that dimension, making them seem very low ceilinged for anyone any taller. 

Perhaps you can see the influence FLW architecture had on 20th century homes. Just think of all these "modern" homes in the 60s that looked a lot like the above view of the Fallingwater. 

Probably the best view of the house is the one you get after the tour, from the lookout across the river.  From here you get a sense of the verticalness of the house that you don't really see anywhere else.

We also visited another one of FLW's homes in the area - Kentuck Knob. 
I hope to get a post out about that soon too.

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