Falling Water or Kaufmann Residence is a house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in western Pennsylvania, 69 km southeast of Pittsburgh. The home was built partly over a waterfall on Bear Run in the Mill Run section of Stewart Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains.
The house was designed as a weekend home for the family of Edgar J. Kaufmann, owner of a department store. It instantly became famous, and today it is a National Historic Landmark. It’s a house that doesn’t even appear to stand on solid ground, but instead stretches out over a 30’ waterfall. It captured everyone’s imagination when it was on the cover of Time magazine in 1938.
Falling Waters has provided enjoyment to many people over the years; as a stimulating weekend retreat for the Kaufmann family and their friends, as a source of pride to the architect and his associates, and now – cared for by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy – as an exceptional experience for visitors from near and far.
Falling water opened a new chapter in American architecture, and is perhaps rightly considered Wright’s greatest work, for he was first and foremost an architect of houses. In its careful yet startling integration of stone walls anchored to the bedrock and modern reinforced concrete terraces hovering in space, Connors states that Falling water may be understood as ‘one of the great critiques of the modern movement in architecture, and simultaneously one of its masterpieces’. Yet we cannot help feeling that there is more to this design than even that; this is an architecture that seizes our imagination, letting us see space and habitation in ways that seem new, but which we simultaneously feel to be ancient, somehow fundamental to our human nature.
Falling Water stands as one of Wright’s greatest masterpieces both for its dynamism and for its integration with the striking natural surroundings. It has been described as an architectural tour de force of Wright’s organic philosophy. The interiors of this landmark property are also crucial to the overall design. Wright successfully brought the outdoors in with the design of falling water using methods such as, leaving exposed boulders in the living room, large “light screens” throughout the entire house and natural elements to connect guests with the surrounding environment of the home.
Perhaps the most famous tale to come out of the lore of Falling water is the improbable story that Wright, after receiving the commission procrastinated for nine months until he was forced to draw up the complete plans while his patron was driving the 140 miles from Milwaukee to Taliesin. The commission for Falling water was a personal milestone for the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, since it clearly marked a turning point in his career. After this late-career triumph, the sixty-seven year old would go on to create a series of highly original designs that would validate his claim as “The world’s greatest architect.”
Through Wright’s work at Falling Water, both interior design and architecture were changed at the time: a more Eastern approach to interior design was brought about. The idea of a house being built on water was also a curious idea.
Wright realized what most designers didn’t: “water always wins.” By building around the water and letting it take its natural course, he was extremely successful with Falling Water both aesthetically and functionally.