I rode a Triumph motorcycle to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater (Kaufman House). I mention this because it was hot, and the house is near Bear Run, Pennsylvania. I have never been to Pennsylvania and I got lost, purposefully at first, on the highways of this beautiful state. There was lots of pie eating. I remember that. Finally Fallingwater appeared…or at least the parking lot did.
After signing in, off I went down the path to the most iconic residence in American architecture.
To the staff’s credit I was allowed to roam around the place pretty much at my whim. So many things disappoint when we finally experience them, but not this place. Fallingwater is stunning and so is the landscape, the testament to Wright’s commitment to both architecture and the landscape and their meaning as one.
Frank Lloyd Wright and Fallingwater are both well-documented. Ingenuity was required, as the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Kaufman, planned to host large parties…and the plot Wright selected for the house was too small for a traditional floor plan. Wright decided upon a cantilevered design, with wings of the house jutting out over, and into, the landscape. The cantilevers involved doubt and intrigue as to their structural integrity.
Fallingwater as commitment to the land
The house itself is intertwined with the land, a celebration of the land, including the hills and the water and not just our traditional idea of landscape as trees and shrubs and lawn. Wright managed to create an interior space that makes one feel a part of nature while being enveloped in a refuge. It is remarkable to me how a flimsy tent can give one the sense of security from the other…from what lies outside on a cold night in the woods. Wright invited nature into the hearth with Fallingwater and there is a suggestion, more than faint, that this is the way it was supposed to be, our architecture, our homes.
I like to think about the legend that Frank Lloyd Wright stood under the cantilevered wings of the house as the supports were removed to prove to the engineers his faith in his own craft. That, and the pies.