Fallingwater (The Edgar J. Kaufmann House) is the world's most famous private residence, and was pivotal in putting the 68 year-old, flamboyant architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, back into the limelight.
Commissioned in 1935 by the Pittsburgh department store owner, Edgar J. Kaufmann whose son, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. was working as an apprentice for Wright in the Talesin Fellowship. Fallingwater would be built on the spot that the Kaufmann's first visited in 1913 when they leased the 1,635 acre site along the Bear Run watershed as an employee retreat. In 1921 a cabin was built where the guesthouse now stands, and in 1933 became under the ownership of the Kaufmanns.
The elder Kaufmann came to Wright in October 1934 to discuss a new building to replace the aging cabin that lacked plumbing, heating, and electricity. Upon his first visit to the Bear Run site in March of 1935 he order a detailed site survey done. Then did nothing for 6 months.
On a Sunday in September, Wright received a call from Kaufmann, and uttered his famous words, "Come along E.J. we're ready for you." The fact of the matter was that nothing was drawn! Wright had honestly done no physical work on Fallingwater in that 6 month period, it was all done mentally, and so he calmly sat down despite the panic of his apprentices and in the 2 hours it took Kaufmann to drive to Talesin from Milwaukee drew rough, but detailed drawings of what would become Fallingwater. Kaufmann came, and approved of the drawings, although he didn't expect Wright to build the home right over the waterfall.
Construction on Fallingwater began in April 1936 and on August 19th when the 1st floor slab was being created, the most serious blunder during the construction occured. At Kaufmann's request, Fallingwater's engineers and contractors had added twice as much steel upsetting the detailed designs that Wright had made. Even more damaging, was the lack of attempts to balance the extra steel. Although much of the damage caused by the steel was later corrected, the drooping lines in the main cantilever and cracks in the concrete are the still visible aftermath of it. In 1939 a guesthouse was added complete with a diving pool.
Fallingwater, like all of (Except his very early works) Wright's buildings, Fallingwater blends in with its surroundings. A rock quarry was created near by to excavate rock from the river bed to create the building's main slabs, as so to blend in with the surrounding rock. Many of the concrete cantilevers seem as if they were part of the earth. The floor was done in such a way that it gleams as if it were flowing water. The hearth in the living room was built over the still visible rock where the Kaufmann family loved to have picnics. The main cantilever seems to give the feeling that Fallingwater is floating over the cascades. There is even a stairway down to the stream separated from the inside by a large glass lock. Even though it may not be Wright's masterpiece in his own opinion, it is one of his best works and put him back in the architectural spotlight, even having a Time cover dedicated to him and Fallingwater.
In October 1969 Edgar Kaufmann Jr. gave the property to the Western Pennsylvnia Conservancy for the public to enjoy and today it recieves more than 70,000 visitors annually.
McCarter, Robert. Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright