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Fallingwater, Pennsylvania, USA

Location: 1491 Mill Run Road, Mill Road, Pennsylvania
Year built: 1939
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s creation, Fallingwater, is a testament to his pioneering approach to organic architecture. Designed in 1935 for the Kaufmann family in Southwestern Pennsylvania, this sandstone house boldly defies conventional design principles. It perches directly above a waterfall, seamlessly integrating itself into the cascading landscape of 5100 acres of neighboring land.  

Originally a vacation home for the Kaufmann family, the property, which encompasses 5100 acres of natural land, has since been entrusted to the care of the Pennsylvania Conservancy, transforming it into a heritage listed public landmark. 

Falling Water celebrates the surrounding environment through its choice of materials and color palette, seamlessly blending with the local sandstone rock formations. The design features open-plan living spaces and a suspended stairway that descends to a natural pool formed by the waterfall’s cascading waters. Glass walls provide unobstructed views from different angles of the house to the waterfall below, effectively merging the elements of forest, rock, and water. 

At the heart of Wright’s design is a large boulder near the waterfall, serving as the central point around which the entire structure revolves. The house cantilevers over the waterfall, with the weight of a stone tower at its core supporting revolutionary cantilever concrete planes. The stone walls are grooved to create the illusion that the detailed glass joinery seamlessly merges with the stone, blurring the lines between the indoors and outdoors. 

The interior design is a harmonious fusion of linear elements and the stone core, allowing a fluid transition from inside to outside. Glass planes are used in the corners of the rooms, further erasing the boundaries between indoors and outdoors. This design offers a “duality of visual texture”, juxtaposing glass panels against rugged stone walls and glossy steel cabinets with timber framing. 

Wright’s intended design initiative created circulation of narrow pathways throughout the house, leading to expansive open spaces.  

Over time, there were challenges related to the increasing angle of cantilever support failure. To address this, reinforcements were added in the form of full tensions to ensure the continued stability of the cantilevers.  

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater remains an enduring masterpiece of organic architecture, a living testament to his innovative vision and commitment to seamlessly blending human habitation with the natural world. 

It’s said that Fallingwater is one of Wright’s greatest works for its integration into natural surroundings, demonstrating the beauty of man and nature as one. Contemporary Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, has commended the house on its ‘treatment and sensibility of space’.

“Recognized as one of the ’28 Must-Visit Destinations in a Lifetime,’ this location stands as a national treasure. Frank Lloyd Wright’s exceptional talent for turning a site into an architectural masterpiece is truly remarkable and is a key factor in his enduring legacy as one of the most renowned architects in history.” – Jessica Wei 

Learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright here.