Even if you’re not a diehard Frank Lloyd Wright fan like me (I’ve visited Fallingwater, along with numerous other FLW buildings) you can still experience the famous architect’s most well-known work without making the trip to Pennsylvania.

Fallingwater by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
Photo by Terry Way. Provided by Commonwealth Media Services, 1996.

Built from 1936 – 1939, Fallingwater is one of the most recognizable houses in the world.  In a 1991 poll, members of the American Institute of Architects named it “The Best All-Time Work of American Architecture.”  Perched above the Kaufman family’s favorite waterfall on their forested property in Bear Run, Pennsylvania, the building utilizes the concept of the cantilever and anchor.

Click here for a unique computer-generated film that shows the construction of the building.

When I visited Fallingwater, I was struck by the serenity of the site.  It’s tucked into a remote corner of the forest.  The main approach to the house does not show it’s real beauty:  the waterfall that rolls beneath the house and just below the livingroom.

Once inside, the house feels quite small.  Walls are close together and ceilings are quite low.  The floors are made from polished river rock, mimicking the riverbed below the floor.  In fact, you can take a staircase down from the livingroom right into the chilly water!

This claustrophobic feeling makes the visitor (at least me!) unconsciously move to the perimiter of the house, toward the windows and terraces.  Once there, the visitor experiences the beauty of the forest and can hear the movement of the waterfall.

The Kaufman’s had asked Wright to build them a country vacation home that would allow them to overlook the beautiful waterfall they so enjoyed.  Wright heard something different when they described the joy they had playing in the falls and sunning on the large rocks, which led him in a much different direction.

The occupants of the house (before they turned it over to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy) lived much closer to the falls than they had initially intended.  In fact, that big rock where they used to sun themselves?  By building around it, Wright made it the main support for the living room fireplace!

And while I have gone on to visit other great Frank Lloyd Wright buildings (he built a LOT of houses, but also schools and office buildings) I still have a special place in my heart for the simplicity and ease of Fallingwater.

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