Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater
The Kaufmann Conservation on Bear Run
Fallingwater, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most widely acclaimed works, was designed in 1936 for the family of Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann.
The key to the setting of the house is the waterfall over which it is built. The falls had been a focal point of the Kaufmann's activities, and the family had indicated the area around the falls as the location for a home. They were unprepared for Wright's suggestion that the house rise over the waterfall, rather than face it. But the architect's original scheme was adopted almost without change.
Completed with a guest and service wing in 1939, Fallingwater was constructed of sandstone quarried on the property and was built by local craftsmen. The stone serves to separate reinforced concrete "trays", forming living and bedroom levels, dramatically cantilevered over the stream. Fallingwater was the weekend home of the Kaufmann family from 1937 until 1963, when the house, its contents, and grounds were presented to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy by Edgar Kaufmann, jr. Fallingwater is the only remaining great Wright house with its setting, original furnishings, and art work intact.
In 1986, New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote: "This is a house that summed up the 20th century and then thrust it forward still further. Within this remarkable building Frank Lloyd Wright recapitulated themes that had preoccupied him since his career began a half-century earlier, but he did not reproduce them literally. Instead, he cast his net wider, integrating European modernism and his own love of nature and of structural daring, and pulled it all together into a brilliantly resolved totality. Fallingwater is Wright's greatest essay in horizontal space; it is his most powerful piece of structural drama; it is his most sublime integration of man and nature."
To Visit Fallingwater
Over 2.7 million people have visited Fallingwater since it opened to the public in 1964. The house is located halfway between the villages of Mill Run and Ohiopyle on Pennsylvania Route 381. Driving time from Pittsburgh is about two hours.
Hailed by Time shortly after its completion as Wright's "most beautiful job", it is listed among Smithsonian's Life List of 28 places "to visit before you die." It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. In 1991, members of the American Institute of Architects named the house the "best all-time work of American architecture" and in 2007, it was ranked twenty-ninth on the list of America's Favorite Architecture according to the AIA.
Edgar Kaufmann Sr. was a successful Pittsburgh businessman and president of Kaufmann's Department Store. His son, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., studied architecture briefly under Wright.
Edgar Sr. had been prevailed upon by his son and Wright to itemize the cost of Wright's utopian model city. When completed, it was displayed at Kaufmann?s Department Store and Wright was a guest in the Kaufmann home, ?La Tourelle?, a French Norman estate designed by celebrated Pittsburgh architect Benno Janssen (1874?1964) in the stylish Fox Chapel suburb in 1923 for Edgar J. Kaufmann.
Fallingwater with falls
The Kaufmanns and Wright were enjoying refreshments at La Tourelle when Wright, who never missed an opportunity to charm a potential client, said to Edgar Jr. in tones that the elder Kaufmanns were intended to overhear, ?Edgar, this house is not worthy of your parents...? The remark spurred the Kaufmanns' interest in something worthier. Fallingwater would become the end result.
The Kaufmanns owned property outside Pittsburgh with a waterfall and cabins they used as a rural retreat. When the cabins deteriorated, Mr. Kaufmann contacted Wright.
Frank Lloyd Wright was an unusual architect in many ways. When I was a kid I'd watch chunks of forest get bulldozed for new homes with a few new seedling scattered on the lawn. I suppose they sold the trees for lumber & profit but a landscaper would have saved shade trees and mature growth.
Instead Wright often tried to blend the building into it's environment and save the properties natural beauty. Even Wright's furniture & decor mirrored the natural setting and his work inspired others.
Thorncraft Chapel in Arkansas
Thorncrown Chapel is a chapel located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas ? designed by E. Fay Jones and constructed in 1980.
The design recalls Prairie School architecture ? popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright, with whom Jones had apprenticed. Jim Reed, a retired schoolteacher, commissioned the chapel.
Constructed mostly of wood and other materials indigenous to northwestern Arkansas, the design minimized material transportation costs. Though giving the impression of an open-air structure, the chapel is nonetheless a glass-enclosed, conditioned space.
The building was selected for the 2006 Twenty-five Year Award by the American Institute of Architects, recognizing structures that have had significant influence on the profession. The chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 Buildings less than fifty years old can only be listed on the Register if they are of exceptional significance
The extent of Wright's genius in integrating every detail of his design can only be hinted at in photographs. This organically designed private residence was intended to be a nature retreat for its owners. The house is well-known for its connection to the site; it is built on top of an active waterfall which flows beneath the house. The fireplace hearth in the living room integrates boulders found on the site and upon which the house was built ? ledge rock which protrudes up to a foot through the living room floor was left in place to demonstrably link the outside with the inside. Wright had initially intended that the ledge be cut flush with the floor, but this had been one of the Kaufmann family's favorite sunning spots, so Mr. Kaufmann suggested that it be left as it was. The stone floors are waxed, while the hearth is left plain, giving the impression of dry rocks protruding from a stream.
Integration with the setting extends even to small details. For example, where glass meets stone walls there is no metal frame; rather, the glass and its horizontal dividers were run into a caulked recess in the stonework so that the stone walls appear uninterrupted by glazing. From the cantilevered living room, a stairway leads directly down to the stream below, and in a connecting space which connects the main house with the guest and servant level, a natural spring drips water inside, which is then channeled back out. Bedrooms are small, some with low ceilings to encourage people outward toward the open social areas, decks, and outdoors.
Driveway leading to the entrance of Fallingwater
Bear Run and the sound of its water permeate the house, especially during the spring when the snow is melting, and locally quarried stone walls and cantilevered terraces resembling the nearby rock formations are meant to be in harmony. The design incorporates broad expanses of windows and balconies which reach out into their surroundings. The staircase leading down from the living room to the stream (mentioned above) is accessed via movable horizontal glass panes. In conformance with Wright's views, the main entry door is away from the falls.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
I've always loved structurese that grow from, accentuate and involve the natural environment.
I find you can study photos of Wright's works for hours seeing subtle inclusions of nature in many forms he includes.
One of the Falling Water photos shows smallish red windows that appear to open like a door. Breezes seem to be pulled up a cliff like this site so while small these windows accomplish ventilation without sacrificing design.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Foundation has purchased his Taliesin West home and created an Architecture School and gift shop. For days we had been driving very flat roads. And suddenly we were going up, up, up to the hills above the city. Development has begun to surround the property and the views were beautiful. These few pictures of famous stained glass works include the Coonley Playhouse windows.
The Walter Lowell House (Cedar Rock) by Frank Lloyd Wright
On a recent trip to ‘the north lands’ (Minnesota and Wisconsin) we traveled via Iowa. I always try to find something different and interesting to do on our trips up (more later on why we go up!)
I happened across a web site for a Frank Lloyd Wright home that is open for tours. I checked the “last tour” dates against our travel dates… and found we could –just- make it on the very last day.
‘Cedar Rock’ is located in Quasqueton, Iowa. This is the information from the Frank Lloyd Wright Sites.com -- “Quasqueton, Iowa is also home to Cedar Rock State Park, location of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Cedar Rock, a structure Wright designed and built for Agnes and Lowell Walter. Lowell had amassed his fortune as owner of the Iowa Road Building company, where he had invented an asphalt topping for country roads in Iowa. In a letter to Mr. Wright, Walter requested a modest home be designed and built on a limestone bluff overlooking the Wapsipinicon. Perhaps one of Wright's most complete designs, Cedar Rock was begun in 1948 and completed in 1950. It was another of Wright's Usonian homes -- originally intended to be an affordable yet stylish design for the working American family. The roof is flat and made entirely of reinforced concrete, while the walls are brick and glass; the floors are concrete as well and utilize a gravity hot water heating system beneath them. Outside the building is the signature red tile (the only Wright structure in Iowa to bear the coveted tile) used by Wright to indicate that everything was designed by him... and I mean everything, from the Cherokee red brick of the outside, right down to the cups and saucers on the table! Supposedly, the only thing allowed on the property that was not designed by Wright was the Thompson TVT, a special boat built Lowell Walter by the Thompson Brothers Boat Manufacturing company…”
Wright is known for his use of stained glass in his homes. However, the Usonian homes were designed for the “everyman” and “everyman” cannot afford to have that luxury in their home! So instead he designed a backlit display area where he set pieces of glass slag, giving the illusion of stain glass. Also used in the house were clear glass bowls filled with slag or blown glass balls, set where the sun would shine thru them.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
AND HIS VISION FOR THE URBAN FUTURE
AMERICAN SYSTEM-BUILT HOUSES
? I do not want any mistake made about this new "System". These buildings are not in any sense the ready cuts buildings we have all heard of where a little package of material is sold to be stuck together in any fashion. The American System-Built House is not a ready cut house, but a house built by an organization, systematized in such a way that the result is guaranteed the fellow that buys the house.
I do not want to lose sight of the central idea of using the machine and all modern industrialism to produce beauty. [?] Simply selling houses at less cost means nothing at all to me. To sell beautiful houses at less cost means everything.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed different housing units A.) for real-estate developer Arthur L. Richards, using a system of industrially manufactured and trimmed elements B.) assembled on site in order to reduce costs. C.) Small homes were advertised from $2.750, larger ones for up to $10.000 ($100.000). D.) Some E.) units have remained. The enterprise failed however. F.)
As you enter this house the front door is like a small portal in a large wall of glass. It blends in with no statement of its own. Stepping into the house you look immediately ahead to the dining alcove. The alcove is fitted with lovely built in cherry wood shelving seating and storage under the seat. The unit was so well made that when it was brought up from the cabinet shop in Kona and slid into place, you could hardly pass a razor between the wood and the brick. The large dining table is immediately ahead and off to the left. Barrel chairs replicating the original designs from the Robie house in Chicago surround the table. When you gaze to the right, your eye see the expansive room that curves blending into the wall of glass making up the front of the house allowing you to see the distant alcove. It is over 90 feet. Wright liked to create what he referred to as the ?great room.? It was the hub of social activity. Here was no different. As we had mentioned before, the fact that the second floor hung from the ceiling meant there were no posts on the first floor and made it look like the ceiling was floating. It also gave one the feeling that the outdoors was much closer to the interior space.
When building the house, we were planning on fabricating the three pair of ten foot front doors and the transom windows, which were above these doors, in a woodworking shop at the end of the driveway. Heaven only knows how long that would have taken. Roy Lambrecht?s cabinetry shop in Kona was light on work and had all of the right machinery. They fabricated the entire front of the house in no time.
The chairs around the coffee table in the living room were called ?Taliesin? chairs. They were made out of plywood, and were both heavy and surprisingly comfortable. The look was much like a Japanese Oragami design.
We will continue to move through the house in future posts.
How Frank Lloyd Wright Got Into My Head, Under My Skin and Changed The Way I Think About Thinking: A Creative Thinking Blueprint for the 21st Century [Paperback]
Wright is often remembered as a staunch individual, following his own personal artistic vision and refusing the idea that he was inspired by others. In reality, it is quite fun to connect his work to other architects, and he himself called architect Louis Sullivan his ?Lieber Meister? (beloved master). Wright collaborated with Milwaukee interior architect George Mann Niedecken on the interiors of several projects, including Chicago?s famous Robie House, Milwaukee?s Frederick Bogk House interior, and houses for Meyer May, Edward Irving, and Avery Coonley.
Snapshot of George Mann Niedecken, Perspective Drawing of a Combination Day Couch/Table/Light Standard for E.P. Irving, 1910. Milwaukee Art Museum
George Mann Niedecken, Combination Writing Desk, Daybed, and Lamp, 1910?11, Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection, Purchase. Photo by Larry Sanders
Above is an impressive multi-functioning Writing Desk, Daybed, and Lamp for the living room of the Irving residence, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed project. Although Wright often gets credit for the entirety of his design programs, it is clear from correspondence that Niedecken had autonomy in the furniture designs and made several changes to original plans. Wright Studio?s original scheme for the Irving home had an open floor plan with a scattered furniture arrangement. In reply, Niedecken offered furniture pieces that served as low room dividers to accommodate the smaller groups he believed people preferred to socialize in. The above Writing Desk, Daybed, and Lamp broke up the large living space and defined an intimate furniture cluster near the fireplace.
This small Dainty Cabinet was part of the reception room in the Adam J. Mayer house (Milwaukee), whose interior Niedecken united around a painted mural of a Wisconsin birch grove. In all earth tones and featuring curly birch on the interior woodwork and furniture, Niedecken?s work for this scheme relates to Prairie School architecture ideas of looking to local midwestern plants and landscape for interior design inspiration.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost