February 23, 2016

20th Century Architectural Icon - Fallingwater

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  • Design

You take a brief stroll along the rocks, feet away from a torrent of rushing snowmelt. A rich cacophony fills your ears – crickets, birds and the surging waterfall below. And then you enter…the kitchen? This is no dream – you’re walking through Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece. Chances are, you already recognize this work – even if not by name. Fallingwater is an iconic fixture in 20th Century Design. But what makes it iconic – besides the fact it has its own Lego® set? Here are a few highlights:

It looks cool.

One of the characteristic features of this work are the three cantilevered pieces jutting out into space, giving the impression that the entire house hovers over a 30′ waterfall. From the lowest level, a latticed wooden staircase descends into a shallow pool. Regardless which architectural style you ascribe to, seeing a house floating over water looks pretty awesome. And yet despite this futuristic motif, the interior is underscored by a minimalist and natural tone that breathes like a haiku.

It illustrates a perfect usage of space.

The design of Fallingwater is emblematic of the harmony between design and nature. With his usage of large windows, open floor plans, natural lighting and typically exterior elements like unfinished stone, he creates a fantasy of being nestled in the middle of the woods. The sounds of the waterfall reverberating through the house compliment this feeling. This design was born out of necessity – the space required extended beyond the original plot, which was adjacent to a cliff. Rather than excavating the site to create a conventional tenement, Wright built the house into the side of the cliff, allowing the natural stone to protrude inside, as evidenced by the fireplace. Wright left its stone foundation unpolished and rough, like a rustic guest. The windows blend seamlessly into rock, a feat accomplished masterfully using caulked furrows in the sandstone. The cantilevered floors were then built to allow the house to extend its capacity beyond what the land permitted.

And finally, Fallingwater itself is an indelible part of its landscape.

Fallingwater is unique to Southwest Pennsylvania. Without the intricacies and challenges of the Bear Run tributary and its surrounding forest and cliffs, this structure would have a completely different form today. Even the building materials were locally sourced. Wright had commissioned a nearby sandstone quarry to reopen in order to provide the rocks that are used to build the outdoor walls and floor.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a master of his craft. His genius is felt in the balance between the visionary and the pastoral; the interior and the exterior. The harmony of Fallingwater creates a transcendent and visceral experience and has inspired countless of his contemporaries today. We have been inspired by his work, and hopefully you have as well.

Are there other iconic works that you’d like to discuss? Let us know!

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