Fallingwater is a house designed in Mill Run, Pennsylvania by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright for Edwin Kaufmann Sr., the President of the Kaufmann’s Department store in Pittsburgh, Pa. The house, completed in 1937, is most famous for being built partially over a waterfall, a part of which cascades through the spacious living room.
Considered one of Wright's greatest masterpieces, it melds his unique style of architecture with the striking and beautiful natural surroundings of the Allegheny Mountains. Wright was well known for his love of Japanese style architecture and its strong bonds between man and nature, which is intimately reflected and palpable in its design. Intended to be a nature retreat for its owners, besides sporting the active waterfall which flows beneath the house, much of the interior and exterior integrates boulders mined from the area.
In the living room a rock protrudes up through the floor, and was left in place on purpose to link the inside with the outer surroundings of the forest. Wright’s structural design for the house included a daring experimental plan to use cantilever technology, which involves a beam anchored at only one end. The beam carries the load to the support where it is resisted by moment and shear stress. Cantilever construction allows for overhanging structures without external bracing.
For the floors, Wright and his team used beams incorporated into a massive concrete slab which formed both the ceiling of the space below and provided resistance against compression and expansion.
Integration with the setting extends even to the tiniest details. From the cantilevered living room, a stairway leads directly down to the stream below, In another area, a natural spring drips water inside, which is then channeled back out. Bedrooms were purposely created to be small, some with low ceilings to actively encourage people outwards towards “nature”.
Bear Run and the sound of its water saturate the house, just one more aspect of Wright’s mantra of nature and harmony. The windows and balconies are meant to reach out into their surroundings. The staircase leading down from the living room to the stream is entered through movable glass panes. In strict conformance with Wright's views, the main entry door faces away from the falls.
On the hillside above the main house stands a three-bay carport, servants' quarters, and a guest house. These buildings were constructed in 1939 using the same quality of materials, and the same stringent attention to detail as the main house.
Fallingwater served as the Kaufmann family's weekend home from 1937 to 1963. Soon thereafter, Kaufmann’s son, Edwin Jr. donated the property to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and in 964 Fallingwater was opened to the public and turned into a museum. Over the last 47 years more than six million people have visited the grounds. The total cost for constructing the home and guesthouse in 1937 came out to $155,000, the equivalent of approximately $2.4 million today. A restoration to the home in 2002 was estimated to be $11.4 million.
Many architectural experts hail Fallingwater as Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, and many consider it to be the one of the most famous homes in North America, including members of the American Institute of Architects who in 1991 named the house the "best all-time work of American architecture". It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and named among Smithsonian's Life List of 28 places "to visit before you die."