Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater: Organic Design

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“Organic buildings are the strength and lightness of the spiders' spinning, buildings qualified by light, bred by native character to environment, married to the ground.” Frank Lloyd Wright

In the woods of Pennsylvania, Frank Lloyd Wright's magnum opus, Fallingwater rises from the landscape and presides over Bear Run like a cantilevered king. Hovering across a 30' waterfall the home is as much of a architectural marvel today as it was 70 years ago. This was just as Frank Lloyd Wright intended. Fallingwater was designed by Wright for Liliane and Edgar Kaufmann to replace their very modest cabin at Bear Run. The Kaufmann's enjoyed spending week ends and summers in the quiet,and tranquil Pennsylvania wilderness. Their son, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. was an apprentice at Wright's home and school Taliesin,Spring Green,Wisconsin. After a visit with their son at Taliesin,the Kaufmann's decided they wanted their new vacation home designed by Wright.

Less than a year after Wright's first visit to the proposed home site he presented Edgar Kaufmann with the first drawings of his vision for their home. Though not the original choice for the home Kaufmann agreed with Wright when told of his plans to build the home over the waterfall and not at it's base. The original estimate for the cost of the home,and it's furnishings' was $35,000. The actual cost of the main house was $75,000. The addition of the servants quarter's,guest house,and garage was $50,000. Fallingwater is not considered to be an enormous home. The enclosed square footage is 2885,with an additional 2445 square feet in terrace space. Three years after Wright's first visit to Bear Run the home was completed. Construction was overseen by two apprentices from Taliesin, Edgar Tafel and Bob Mosher.

Wright believed that buildings should appear as though it naturally belonged there. “It is the nature of any organic building to grow from its site,come out of the ground into the light.”1 Wright saw it as a personal mission to create genuine American Architecture.2 Wright also had a theory about average American homes. He claimed they were “Bastardized” by the process of painting,and varnishing inside and out. Turning materials into something that they were not3. It is little surprise that Wright had a fondness for Japanese Architecture, many of his homes,including Fallingwater, have an unmistakable touch of Oriental inspiration. Wright appreciated the movable screens and the open space this provided. Wright turned his back on how the ancients built according to proportion and scale based on mathematics and,deciding instead to build his homes based on the actual proportion of a 5'8 and ½ man. Wright claimed that “If I had been taller,the scale might have been different.”4

Part of Wright's Organic Design philosophy included the use of materials that were native to the home,or building site. In the case of Fallingwater,Wright took advantage of the large amount of Pottsand Stone located on site. Walls,floors,interior,and exterior were given special attention in order to maintain the respect for the home's location. Even the color that the concrete cantilevers are painted stay true to Wright's ideas on harmony and nature. Originally,Wright wanted to cover them in gold leaf,Kaufmann opposed preventing Wright from making aesthetic mistake5. The soft golden tan of the cantilever's,and differing shades of gray naturally occurring in the stone,are tied together by the bright red of the window mullions. Steel and concrete were used as much for their practicality as for their offerings to Wright's cause. Wright had prepared his plans in accordance with the importance of the water from the falls. Hearing the falls was as important as the steel that supports the structure. Wright had explained to Kaufmann during their initial meeting to discuss the plans for Fallingwater that he wanted them to “live with the waterfall,not just look at it,but for it to become and integral part of...
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