Completed in 1938 by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is as relevant as ever. In 1935, the Kaufmann family commissioned the architect to design a summer home. The house was to be built along Bear Run, a favorite swimming spot of the Kaufmann family, and escape from the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh. Fallingwater blends seamlessly with the landscape and waterfall, fully expressing Wright’s concept of “organic architecture.” Fallingwater seemingly suspends in mid-air above the shimmering cascade, creating the dramatically elegant home.
Fallingwater House Technical Information
- Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright | Biography & Bibliography
- Location: Mill Run, Pennsylvania, United States
- Client: Edgar J. Kaufmann
- Topics: Unesco Heritage, Organic Architecture, American Houses
- Area: 5,330 Sq.Ft. (495-square-meter)
- Project Year: 1939
- Photographs: © Robert P. Ruschak, Flick Users: © Nick Stanley, © Via Tsuji, © Wally Gobetz, © Jon Fisher, © Timothy Neesam, © Jessica
The architect must be a prophet … if he can’t see at least 10 years ahead, don’t call him an architect.
– Frank Lloyd Wright
Fallingwater House Photographs
Text by the Architects
Completed in 1937, Fallingwater was built as a private retreat for the Pittsburgh department-store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. The house would serve as their weekend home out in the country, roughly 75 miles (121 kilometers) outside Pittsburgh. Kaufmann and his wife, Liliane, were impressed by Wright’s work after visiting their son at Taliesin, an architectural school Wright designed and ran in Wisconsin.
The bold design of the house, which seems to hover dramatically above a waterfall, was immediately hailed by critics as a masterpiece of modern architecture, catapulting Wright, its architect, into the limelight. Its strong horizontal lines, stacked cantilevered concrete terraces, and integration with the surrounding landscape make the house one of Wright’s most recognizable designs.
The residence is anchored around a central hearth, the symbolic core of domestic life, with low ceilings and built-in furnishings that contribute to a sense of shelter and refuge. Fallingwater’s powerful relationship to its site, its simple materials, and its connection to nature epitomizes the essential tenets of Wright’s philosophy of “organic architecture.”
The house renderings became emblematic of the architect’s drawing style: seen from a slightly skewed perspective, the house appears in the upper portion of the composition, surrounded by lush vegetation. Elements of his illustration break through the drawing’s borders, a stylistic device often used by the Japanese painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai, whom Wright greatly admired. Wright was a lifelong collector and dealer of Japanese woodblock prints, and the influence of Japanese culture and art on his design thinking and aesthetic is apparent in this drawing.
Since Wright had suffered from a lack of work during the Great Depression, which put a halt to many architectural endeavors, landing such a big commission helped put him back on the map as a top architect. Wright completed construction on the 5,330-square-foot (495-square-meter) main house by 1938 and finished building the 1,700-square-foot (158-square-meter) guest house the following year. After this late-career triumph, the sixty-seven-year-old would go on to create a series of highly original designs that would validate his claim as “The world’s greatest architect.”
The home remained a private residence of the family until 1963, when the son, Edgar Jr., gave the deed to Fallingwater and the surrounding 1,500 acres (607 hectares) to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, dedicating the property as the ‘Kaufmann Conservation on Bear Run, a Memorial to Edgar J. and Liliane S. Kaufmann.’ Fallingwater first opened its doors in 1964 for public tours.
Since then, many entities have recognized the importance of Fallingwater’s artistry. In the late 1970s, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the museum a National Historic Landmark. And in 2019, UNESCO added Fallingwater (and seven other Frank Lloyd Wright-designed sites) to its list of World Heritage Sites, marking an impressive international recognition of Fallingwater’s legacy in the world of architecture.
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature — it will never fail you.
— Frank Lloyd Wright
Fallingwater House by Frank Lloyd Wright Plans
Fallingwater House by Frank Lloyd Wright Image Gallery
About Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) was an American architect, designer, writer, and educator. He designed more than 1,000 structures over a creative period of 70 years. Wright believed in designing in harmony with humanity and the environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture. Wright played a key role in the twentieth century’s architectural movements, influencing generations of architects worldwide through his works.
- Historic American Buildings Survey, C., Wright, F. L., Kaufmann, E. J., Kaufmann, L. S., Lipchitz, J., Kent State University, S. […] Zuber, N., Boucher, J. E., photographer. (1933) Fallingwater, State Route 381 Stewart Township, Ohiopyle, Fayette County, PA. Pennsylvania Ohiopyle Fayette County, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/pa1690/.