OK, I’ve held off long enough. I’ve been writing about aquatic architecture for months, and it’s about time that I finally get around to covering the most famous examples of aquatic architectural art, Fallingwater.
Also known as Kaufmann Residence, this legendary home is nestled in the secluded woods near the southwest border of Pennsylvania, about 50 miles away from Pittsburgh. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935, this residence is built partly above a waterfall along the Bear Run tributary.
For a building that perfectly represents harmony between nature and man-made structures, Fallingwater was plagued by conflict from day one. For starters, Wright and Edgar Kaufmann, the man who owned the land, initially didn’t see eye-to-eye over construction. Kaufmann had assumed that Wright would build the house at the foot of the falls so that he could enjoy the view, but Wright had come up with the rather unorthodox idea of situating the house over the top of the falls instead.
Kaufmann also doubted Wright’s experience working with concrete. Kaufmann attempted to put together a report and send it to a third party architectural group to confirm that everything checked out, but Wright took offense and threatened to withdraw from the project. Kaufmann ultimately folded to Wright and agreed to trust him. The elegantly stylish home was completed four years later in October of 1937, and by then it was clear that Kaufmann was wise to follow Wright’s lead.
Fallingwater stands as one of Wright’s greatest achievements (quite possibly his masterpiece) and is widely known as one of the most beautiful buildings ever made. The Smithsonian placed it on its list of 28 places you have to visit before you die, it became a National Historic Landmark in 1966, and the American Institute of Architects called it one of the best pieces of American architecture ever built.
Edgar Kaufmann’s son donated the house to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1964. It has since been open to the public and hosts as many as 150,000 people each year (approximately 410 people per day). The house cost a mere $155,000 to build and furnish back in the mid ’30s, but nowadays that translates into about $2.4 million — a hefty price for a house, but a small price to pay to own a nearly invaluable architectural masterpiece.