World renowned architectural masterpiece and National Historic Site designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Falling Water is one of the most serene and inspiring architectural darlings of the past century. Frank Llyod Wright, widely known as America’s most famous architect, designed and built this house over a 30 ft. waterfall on Bear Run for his clients, the Kaufman family. It was built between 1936 and 1939 for the purpose of being the family’s mountain vacation home.
The family had vacationed at Bear Run for years, and the waterfall was the most beloved place on the property. Imagine their surprise when Wright showed them plans to build their new vacation home over top of the falls, as opposed to below them with a nice view. The falls can be heard throughout the structure, but can only be seen from the third floor balcony. One of the main features of the home is a staircase leading down from the living room to the water just above the falls. He said that he wanted the family to live with the falls in their everyday life, and not just look at them once in a while. The home was voted the best all-time work of American architecture in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects.
It is considered Wright’s greatest masterpiece because of the structure’s dynamic and organic nature. Parts of the house were built around existing boulders and trees. For example, a few of the boulders in the fireplace hearth protrude from the floor. Those particular boulders were the Kaufman’s favorite sunning stones before the house was built, and Edgar Kaufman Sr. requested that they be left just as they were instead of being sheared down to the level of the floor. Many of the rooms in the house have corner windows which were designed in such a way that the window and it’s entire frame open outward, leaving the corner of the room completely open to the outside. In the bridge connecting the main house to the guest and servant house, there is a boulder that drips water inside, and then it is directed back outside again.
The house is a modern marvel that leaves you feeling the beauty of man yielding to and truly living with nature. The exquisite surroundings are as much a part of the structure as the structure seems to be a part of the surrounding. This place holds special significance for me. Having grown up in Western Pennsylvania, visiting always brings me back to memories of field trips in school… back to the time and place where my love and appreciation of architecture was formed… Falling Water.
It is located 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh on Route 381. Falling Water’s regular season extends from mid-March until Thanksgiving weekend (USA), and the property is open daily from 10am – 4pm. However, don’t go on Wednesdays, as they are closed for tours, but you can still walk the grounds and view the house from the outside. Winter hours are much more limited: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in December, 10am-3pm, as well as being open for approximately one week after Christmas. Hours can be found on the website. A normal tour costs $18, but you cannot take pictures inside the house on this tour. If photographs, or lomographs, are your aim, there is an in-depth tour that lasts for two hours on which you are permitted to shoot to your hearts content. That tour costs $55. It is essential to either make reservations or advance purchase your tickets on-line or by phone for either of these tours.