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Fallingwater First Impressions

August 12, 2011

Unnaturally smooth and rectangular terraces thrust out of rough rock and leafy foliage. I’m struck by the contrast between the chaotic and vibrant beauty of nature and the symmetry of this beige monstrosity.

It’s ugly.

My first impressions of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania were most unkind. But curb appeal isn’t everything.

Inside is open and airy. The boring beige concrete that so dominates the exterior diminishes in importance, replaced by natural-looking stone, steel, and glass. The modernist affront of the façade is softened by a fittingly rustic decor with Asian touches. And everywhere there is water, either in sight or in sound.

Designed as a vacation home for the Kaufman family in 1935, Wright took the groundbreaking approach of integrating the house with the 30-foot Bear Run waterfall. Cantilevers project living areas directly over the stream and the falls. Full length windows and terraced ceilings encourage the eye to wander outside. Nearly 2,500 square feet of patio, almost half of Fallingwater’s total space, beckons visitors to do the same.

Everywhere you’re reminded of nature. Narrow hallways of rough hewn rock invite comparisons with caves. An unpolished boulder rises from the floor to form a hearth. The floor itself, highly waxed stone, gives the impression of a wet stream bed; an illusion complemented by the ever-present burbling of Bear Run below.

First impressions, it seems, are not always accurate. Fallingwater grew on me.

Outside again, a different vantage point gives a different perspective. From the south, with the majestic waterfall in full view, Fallingwater is more harmonious with its surroundings. The stone façade appears to have been carved directly from the cliff side. Even the beige terraces, so offensive from the north, mimic the natural cantilevers of the falls.

Mr. Wright apparently knew what he was doing after all. When do we move in?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Chris H. permalink
    August 12, 2011 8:24 am

    I’m so glad you went there. I love it. So many surprises. I’ve been several times with houseguests. It’s at it’s best, I think, in the spring when the rhodedendrons are in bloom.

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