Monday, October 31, 2011

Summer Trip to Fallingwater

So this summer, I went and visited Deep Creek Maryland and got to take a quick trip up to Fallingwater, the summer house of the Kaufmann's, of Pittsburgh department store fame. The couple convinced Frank Lloyd Wright to build them the house and it is one of the most famous of his homes. The house was finished in 1937. For more, this article gives a great snapshot of the history.

It is evident from the design that nature is really heart of the design this home, with the cantilevered levels of the house literally coming out of the mountain. Most of what I learned and noticed was explained by our excellent guide. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has really done a wonderful job maintaining the home and its staff is educated and competent.

The Kaufmanns' son, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. had been a pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright's after reading his book, and it was his interest in architecture that led the Kaufmann's to Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright, who would visit a home he designed and move a vase back to where he had originally thought it should be had renowned battles with Mr. Kaufmann who had hired engineers to advise on what seemed like a crazy idea to build the home. They advised steel beams to support the framing and Mr. Wright was not too happy about either their idea or the fact that Kaufmann went behind his back on the design element.

You have to drive through the mountains to get to the house. Alone it is a pretty drive, taking you through the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania and it puts you in the mood to embrace nature as you're enjoying the scenic views the drive offers.

You get to the gate only by having a paid reservation ahead of time and you get there and make your way to the Visitors Center. From there you go with your tour group and take a stroll down and around the mountain to get to the location to where the home is.

Down the path you go until you get to the opening to where the house is built into the mountain. You can hear the waterfall, over which the house is built. You can see the other tours that are making their way through the house ahead of you.

You can see the steps leading down from inside the hatch inside the home down to the river where the Kaufmanns would have been able to head down for a swim in an isolated pool that was built in (that you can't see here) or apparently, Mr. Kaufmann enjoyed fishing at the base of the stairs. Apparently the Kaufmann's really enjoyed entertaining here and the likes of Albert Einstein and Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were regular visitors. You can still see some of the Rivera paintings smattered around the household, presumably from his visits.

See how Frank Lloyd Wright built the windows into the corners so that they could be swung out allowing the building to effectively have no "corners" in the home. Apparently they had to build screens to keep out the insects but the idea and beauty of the idea is evident. I didn't know anything about Frank Lloyd Wright except that he had worked with Louis Sullivan in Chicago and he was the godfather of the prairie style of homes. I'm really glad I saw my first FLW home in my home state of Pennsylvania. It lets me put the other things he's done into perspective.
A little restoration work was being done while we were here.
They wouldn't let us take pictures inside the home so the rest of the pictures are outside on the way away from the building. The interior still contains lovingly preserved original furnishings from the Kaufmanns from when their son donated the house. So not only was he the impetus behind having the house built but he was truly the one who was able to preserve it by donating it and the surrounding land to the Conservancy.  

The vista from outside is actually the spot where the Kaufmanns thought their house would be built, so they could overlook the waterfall... instead the waterfall has become part of the home when Wright built it over the water.

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