It’s ironic that the person that has most influenced my (Christopher’s) love of architecture, died the same day I was born. That person was the renowned American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. It has been a long-held dream of mine to visit his most famously designed home – Fallingwater.
The house was designed as a weekend home for the family of Liliane Kaufmann and her husband, Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr, owner of Kaufmann’s Department Store. Located at Bear Run in south western Pennsylvania, it is an easy two-hour drive from Pittsburgh. And as luck would have it, we scored a five-week house sit in Erie, just two hours north of Pittsburgh in the fall of 2017.
So, when I realised that my dream was within reach I starting searching the web for information about tours of Fallingwater. Even though we were still two months away from our time in Pennsylvania, the Fallingwater Tour schedule on the website was showing many tours already booked out!
After further investigation and securing a definite date, I found that there were still places available for the first tour of the morning which was dedicated to people who want to take photographs. Photography is not allowed on any of the other tours. So, I booked our tickets for October 24th – 8am tour.
Flash forward to October 24th and we were staying in a hotel in the nearby town of Collinsville, about a forty minute drive from ‘Fallingwater’. It was a rather cool morning and there were showers predicted but this did not dampen our spirits. The drive to Fallingwater gave us great views of the beautiful autumn colours that had taken over the Pennsylvanian landscape during the previous few weeks.
As we arrived at the driveway to Fallingwater, the first thing to strike us was its remoteness. The house cannot be seen from the main road and is tucked away in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains. After a short time in the visitors centre we were led down a meandering path lined with native rhododendrons towards this architectural masterpiece. And there it was! Just as spectacular as I had hoped. I almost had to pinch myself to believe I was actually standing in front of this most iconic building I had longed to visit.
We were a small tour group of ten comprising Americans, Europeans and another two Australians from Adelaide. Our tour guide, whose name escapes me, was excellent. His knowledge of Fallingwater was encyclopaedic and obviously had a passion for architecture and in particular for Fallingwater. He shared many stories and anecdotes during our time with him.
Frank Lloyd Wright is known for designing buildings that interact with their surroundings and so we spent some time exploring the exterior and how the house sits within the natural environment. Being built directly over a waterfall gives the house a unique feel as well as an in built ventilation system. Its construction presented many challenges and in recent years, rectification work has been done to prevent the house from falling into the river.
As we entered the house, it was like going back in time. The original furnishings from 1939 still adorn the home and it is as if the family simply got up and left. Rather than feeling dated however, the interiors of this home are as relevant today as they were back in 1939. This is a building that has stood the test of time. At the time of our visit, the building was 76 years old which is almost unbelievable. Frank Lloyd Wright was truly a genius of his time. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and in 1991, members of the American Institute of Architects named Fallingwater the “best all-time work of American architecture”.
After meandering though the house for nearly two hours it was time to leave but we were still free to wander the extensive grounds for as long as we liked. I could rave on lots more about our time at Fallingwater but I’ll let our photographs speak for themselves. If you would like to find out more about Fallingwater the extensive website, https://www.fallingwater.org/ has lots of information.