Fallingwater is also referred to as Kaufmann’s residence. It is located in southwestern Pennsylvania within a rural setting. Frank Lloyd Wright was the chief designer of the building (Lynda 1996, p.10). The design work was accomplished in 1935 and thereafter, the construction process began in earnest. The residence obtained its name from the fact that some of its section was constructed on a waterfall along the Allegheny Mountains. The design of the building was hailed by various key players in the field of architecture. In 1966, the residence was earmarked as a National Historic Landmark. The building has remained an important spot and also a significant tourist attraction destination.
The concept behind the building
The ground level of the building has several rocks. The presence of these rocks was used as a vantage position for setting up the foundation of the house. The relief of the area is slightly bumpy. Besides, it is surrounded by deciduous trees. This forest has not been interfered with at all bearing in mind that the route to the house is a simple footpath. The house’s cascade is made up of a Bear Creek.
The lower level of the masonry facades of the architectural piece sits on a site whereby the original terrain was removed (Franklin 2005, p. 54). The new artificial feature has developed a decent natural transformation from the bare rocks to the floor areas made of concrete. A cream color laces the remaining part of the facades. This creates a sharp difference between the brown and green colors. However, the color impression created at this point often relies on the season.
The orthogonal forms have also created contrasting features within the building. The orthogonal forms have been positioned in such a way that they can other decorative features within the building. This additional feature integrates quite well with the overall aesthetic aspect of the building. It is also vital to mention that the house has skillfully matched with the surrounding environment. In other words, it has adapted quite well to the color mix of the surrounding deciduous trees in the nearby forest. Besides, the natural rocks that exist in this place have been competently used to mount the foundation of the architectural piece of art. Some of the rocks have also been integrated skillfully in erecting the region around the fireplace. When the house is viewed from outside, most of its parts tend to hang from the creek’s top.
When the building was being constructed, the Wright’s engineers feared that it would not withstand the weight on the top and that it would collapse quite easily. However, the construction process went on without any rectification.
There are two floors in this house. Each of the floors has special facilities and extra rooms that supply the needs of the occupants. Nonetheless, the chimney is made up of a vertical core. The floors have vertically extending windows. These windows have been constructed in such a way that they are progressing across various plants. The house’s cascade has been vividly represented by the vertical focus made up of terraces and overhangs. Towards the northern side of the building, pergolas have been prominently positioned facing the stream that ends up as a waterfall.
Purpose and materiality
The main reason why Frank Lloyd designed the building was to cater to the residence of the Kaufmann family. The latter was the client of Frank Lloyd. Various materials were used in building this house. Most of the materials were obtained locally while others were slightly modified to fit the aesthetic and design needs of the owner.
Architectural style and language
The Fallingwater building is indeed one of the outstanding pieces of architectural art that have withstood the test of time. It was constructed on a natural surrounding void of any human activities. The design of the building is believed to have been influenced by the Japanese construction style and intrinsic culture.
The style of the building was particularly visible both in the interior spaces and the interpenetrating exteriors. The style adopted also attempted to illuminate the type of synchronization that exists between nature and mankind. Wright is believed to have acquired and practiced the most vital elements of design in architecture. He particularly borrowed a lot of architectural style aspects from Japanese culture. For instance, the Fallingwater building was constructed with a great sensibility of space.
For visitors who tour the building, an immense sense of how to design has been integrated from the foundation to the walls can be easily visualized. The use of natural materials derived from the site was supposed to make the building appear as natural as possible. It is interesting to note that waters from the falls flow under the building while the house itself stands on top of an active cataract. This is a profound and unique style for a small private residence of this nature.
As already mentioned, the fireplace is also designed uniquely. For instance, the living room hosts the fireplace hearth. Stone boulders that have been obtained from the immediate environment have been used and integrated competently to create the fireplace. The ledge rock in the sitting room was not interfered with at all and hence, its natural protruding position has been connected with the external surface of the house. Although Wright had suggested that the ledge rock be slightly shaped to align well with the inner wall, the Kaufmann family decided that the natural protruding position was the best. Therefore, the stone was left intact. Waxing was done on the stone floors. However, the hearth remained natural. This style left an intuition and fancy look of a stream with some protruding dry rocks.
Even the minor details were taken into account when the setting was being integrated with the natural rocks from the site. For example, metal frames were not used at all in sections where stone walls met with glass. In addition, glass was perfectly used alongside metal and fine pieces of stones to improve the appearance of the outer surfaces. This created an impression of a smooth transition of the stone walls irrespective of the glazed part. To access the stream below, there was a stairway emanating from the living room. The stairway also linked the servant and guest level rooms with the main house. There were also drips of water from a natural spring in the house. The drips were then channeled outside.
Bedrooms were not large. They were relatively small compared to standard bedrooms for guesthouses. Moreover, the ceilings for some of the bedrooms were quite low so that people who were outside could easily access the outer doors, decks, and social areas.
In terms of the driveway that directs visitors to the entrance of the building, there were sounds of water occasioned by the Bear Run. The house was permeated quite well with the sound from dripping and flowing water (McCarter 2002, p.29).
Broad extensions of balconies and windows were also part and parcel of the design work that was incorporated in the building. The balconies and windows extended in such a way that they reached out to the immediate leafy environment from the deciduous trees. Horizontal glass panes that were movable were used to construct staircases linking the stream and the main house. Wright also wanted to make sure that the waterfalls and the entry to the main house were as close as possible.
A four-bay carport was constructed on the upper region of the main house near the hillsides. Other structures included the guest house and servant quarters. These additional structures were attached to the main house. Although they were built almost two years after the completion of the main house, the design, artistic style, and even materials used were the same as those used in the main house. A swimming pool was also constructed for the guest house. It obtained its waters from the spring and drained the excess water downstream (Hoffmann 1993, p.39).
The spatial arrangement was a critical component in designing the building. For instance, there were specialized rooms in the Cascade House. They had unique finishes, location, and distribution. Below the stairs on the main entrance, a small functional hall was constructed. This room also provided an entry to the second floor.
The largest portion in the room is the living room. It is possible to catch a clear view of the deciduous forest when an individual is sitting in the living room. There is also a small “Music Corner”. However, there are no music components in that corner. Moreover, the origin of the term has not been known. There are sofa sets positioned on the right side of the “Music Corner”. In addition, there is a “stairway of water” behind the “music corner.” Both the internal and external walls are equal in size.
The fireplace is spaciously located on the right side of the dining room. Natural rocks have been used to surround the fireplace. The “ball of wine” is positioned on the left side of the fireplace. Two main doors are directed towards the slopes constructed in form of stairs. There is also a separate bedroom on this floor. This indicates that when the house was being designed, space was a crucial parameter. Both of the floors have adequate rooms for various purposes. Even though the bedrooms are a bit small in size, they were constructed in such a way that they could be enough for one occupant. The kitchen and eating rooms are close together so that they can be easily accessed bearing in mind that they perform similar functions.
The bathrooms are also important facilities strategically located on the second floor.
In summing up, it is definite that the Fallingwater house was an architectural masterpiece in terms of both design and spatial arrangement. In addition, the overall style adopted in constructing this private residence was indeed unique. This explains why the building was finally declared as a landmark historical piece of architecture.
Edgar, K 1986, Fallingwater: A Frank Lloyd Wright Country House, Abbeville Press, New York.
Franklin, T 2005, Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E. J. Kaufmann, and America’s Most Extraordinary House, Knopf, Mason, OH.
Hoffmann, D 1993, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater: The House and Its History, Dover Publications, New York.
Lynda, W 1996, Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Romance With Nature, Universe Publishing, New York.
McCarter, R 2002, Fallingwater Aid (Architecture in Detail, Phaidon Press, London.