O+A Visits Fallingwater

It probably goes without saying that for any architect, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is akin to Mecca. No home has more appropriately lodged itself into the collective consciousness as the prime example of site integration (and frankly, the concept of indoor/outdoor) than this famous, stair-stepped, precariously-but-somehow-perfectly balanced home over Bear Run.

Fallingwater takes your breath away – it seduces you with the gentle sound of streams, the damp smell of shade and the elegance of each cantilever.

As we explored early in the morning, before the summer air grew heavy with humidity, we were in awe of how modern it was. The glass hatch cascaded down into the river for cool breezes and impromptu swimming; the stairs cantilevered off the bedrock; the living room was draped in Beni Ourains, Turkish tapestried pillows and sheepskin rugs. For a home designed and built in 1936, the Kaufmanns could have been the original hipsters.

Famously impossible to upkeep, there are only minor signs of wear and tear – more impressive is the level of thought and consideration put into every detail. One gets the sense this was the perfect marriage of architect and client – the Kaufmanns, a trusting patron to one of the greatest in history; Wright, an inspired creator with respect for their eye.

I wandered around a bedroom, admiring the way the frameless glass disappears into the stacked stone, and fantasized about the conversations they must’ve had with one another. Did they challenge each other? Did they fervently discuss the concept of compression and release? Did they spend days reviewing wood tones or slate slabs for the most appropriate fit?

I like to imagine that this place could not exist without both Wright and the Kaufmanns together, without their mutual respect and collaboration; without discourse and passion for the best.

And that’s what I’m looking for – an experience where there is no sense of compromise; only of a collective vision perfectly executed. Because, in the end, those are the projects that will take your breath away.

Written by Denise Cherry