Play Architecture with Fallingwater

Daily Draw July 23rd, 2012

F.L. Wright
Falling Water (sic)
Bear Run, 1936

I really like the line drawings in this deck. The house is actually called Fallingwater and is all one word. Bear Run is about 60 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In 1934, Edgar Kauffman Jr. came to Wright’s fellowship at Taliesin for several months. He had studied architecture and knew he didn’t want to be an architect, but he was drawn to Wright’s ideas and philosophy. While there, his parents visited him and his father, Edgar Kauffman Sr., who was a wealthy department store owner in Pittsburgh, fell under Wright’s spell and asked him to design a country retreat for him.

They had some property in Bear Run and were using it for camping and swimming and generally roughing it on vacations, but wanted a permanent building there. They thought a nice woodsy house looking toward the waterfall which fell under a large boulder would be nice. They wanted to spend about 20 to 30 thousand dollars.

Weeks and weeks passed and no word came from Wright so Kauffman phoned Wright and asked to see how the plans were coming along. Wright pretended he had the plans done but he actually had not started them. Kauffman was going to be there in a couple of hours so Wright just sat down and drew, and drew, flipping sheets around and using up many pencils, and finally giving the drawing the name Fallingwater. His two assistants drew up the other two elevations while Wright was schmoozing with Kauffman.

Instead of being a rustic lodge opposite the waterfall, it was built around the boulder Mr. Kauffman used to sun himself on, and was all angled modernity with wood and stone and cantilevered concrete balconies. It also cost a hell of a lot more than $20,000 in the end. The engineers were sceptical this was a safe design but Wright went ahead, although the builder added some extra structural support on the sly.

The conservation of the house started in 1988, fifty years after it was built. Most buildings need a renovation by that time but this house needs to be preserved for historical reasons. Because of the humid environment over water it has mould and mildew problems, and always was a bit structurally iffy, so they had to add steel girders to support it for a while, eventually using newer methods like steel cables and post tensioning, using blocks joined to floor joists and the cantilever beams with tension added. The interior was saved as it was originally and strangely looks like a house from the late sixties—well ahead of its time.

Fallingwater, apart from being beautiful, reminds us all that when you are older and written off by society, as Wright was at the time, you still have your life experience, creativity, and intellect to draw on. More than an architectural legacy, Wright leaves us with a deeper philosophy every time we see this house.

I like it!



2 thoughts on “Play Architecture with Fallingwater

  1. I think this construction is just beautiful ..

    There are some times when these juxtapositions of eras and styles work so harmoniously and this is one of them. I am glad to see this and read today’s study. And I agree with you, the drawings in this deck are fabulous. So clean.

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