2015 Vacation: Friday...Fallingwater

Fallingwater today. Our tour started at 8:30, so we were up and out early. It is only a short drive from the site, but we will be going down SR2019 to Ohiopyle, which is the road they recommend that large RV's avoid. They are right!

Even going downhill without a trailer was a bit unnerving, as the road is quite steep, with many blind hairpin corners. I imagine pulling a trailer uphill would be a challenge, regardless of the size.

Fallingwater is nestled into the forest, just a short drive off the highway.
They have built a small visitor centre just off the parking lot, with a check-in desk, small gallery, bookstore shop and a cafe, all of these located off a central hub. It is an open air area, elevated off the forest floor, and fitting well into the landscape. Installed along the overhead edge are hanging curtains on rollers, which are probably lowered during heavy rains or perhaps when the weather get cooler, to help make the space a little more pleasant.

This visitor area had a wonderful feeling of space and connection with the woods surrounding it
We met our tour guide, Henry, at the top of the ramp that heads to the house. We are taking the in-depth tour, which lasts about 2 hours. The groups are small, about 10 people, and Henry led our walk to the house. The house itself is quite deep into the forest built over a waterfall and we walked along the original driveway bordered by rhododendron trees to reach it.

Coming down a small hill we caught our first glimpse of Fallingwater, the iconic cantilevered concrete terraces in a light ochre colour, jutting out over the stream and falls below them.

We stopped here for a moment while Henry explained the beginning of the house. It was designed by Wright in 1935, for the Kaufmann family, owners of a large Pittsburgh department store. Construction of the 5500 sq.ft. house (including outdoor terrace space) was completed in 1938, at a final cost of $155K. Wright used only two colours on the house, ochre for the concrete, chosen to mimic the back of a fallen rhododendron leaf, and his favourite, Cherokee Red, for the steel trim work. The Kaufmanns apparently had little say into the design of the house, with only minimal changes being accepted, most requests were responded to with a curt... "No".

The distinctive terraces hang suspended in mid air, seemingly held in place at one end by the vertical sandstone walls of the house. It is not until you really look at the house do you understand how it all fits together.

Our first stop inside was the kitchen. Just before the kitchen is an outdoor area used to rinse off your feet, if you have been out wandering the grounds and do not want to track in a bunch of dirt. Note the soap hanging from a chain.

Small for the scale of the house, but incorporating some of the latest conveniences of the day, a double door fridge, an AGA oven from France, a Kitchenaid dishwasher.

This wall fan and the colour  caught my eye

Hard not to recognize the unique look of an Aga stove

The house is also wired for a call bell service, discreet buttons are placed throughout the house, when pressed, the location is identified at the callbox in the kitchen, and a servant is dispatched. The kitchen floors were done in an asphalt tile, Cherokee Red, to match the trim.

From the kitchen we moved into the main living space, a large open area, with outdoor terraces on 2 sides. Henry explained Wrights philosophy of using a slightly lower ceiling when you entered to have the spaces open up in front of you, and at the windows to draw your eye to the outdoors, increasing the feeling that the outside is really an extension of the inside space. The floors throughout the house are limestone, smooth, waxed and polished, which one would think they would feel hard and cold, but they do not. The stone floors are heated by hot water pipes as primary heating for the house, quite extrodinary for 1935!

Horizontal surfaces and the cantilever is evident everywhere. Even the shelves built into the sandstone walls reflect the design philosophy Wright was aiming to achieve.

The long bench seating around the perimeter of the living room is also cantilevered, the space underneath utilized to help with the airflow around the room.

From the living room there are a set of steps that take you to the lower level, and the waters edge. The step area is covered with a glass enclosure, with a sliding glass roof and short doors. Quite a visual impact to see and have direct access to the water from the living room, and we were told that opening the doors on a hot day was great for bringing a refreshing breeze into the house, very much natural air-conditioning.

The outdoor terraces are fabulous, connecting you directly with the outdoors and the sound of the flowing, or should I say, falling water. Virtually every room has a terrace, deceiving how the concrete cantilevers tie the entire house together. All the windows and trim work are in the Cherokee Red colour, which blends nicely together with the rest of the structure, and of course, the outdoors.
Dale scratches Fallingwater off her bucket list!
You can really see how the house can blend into the outdoors

The details are also very impressive, clearly everything has been integrated together by Wright. He also designed a lot of the fixtures and furniture throughout, right down to the bed sets and the bedside table lighting. If you follow his design at all, you will recognize his distinctive style visible throughout the house.

Wright felt that corners need not be structural. Notice the windows open up completely with no centre mullion

Wrights designs are simple, yet classic

Desk arc cutout to accommodate the opening of the window 

he even designed all the fittings

and the furniture...
The guest house, situated slightly above the main house, is visually connected using a walkway, which is covered with a roof structure that echos the cantilever style. Quite the guest house it is, large, airy, and even with its own pool.

Organic looking stairway. Love the curved handrail and the built in light

The servants quarters were incorporated in this building as well. Below and to the back of the guest house was the carport area. Wright did not believe in garages, feeling they would only soon become areas of clutter, disturbing the overall harmony of the space. How visionary he was!

This was the end of the formal tour. Henry did a fine job of describing what Wright was trying to acheive with his design, and providing all sorts of insights into the history of the house. We then made our way along a short path through the woods to a lookout, from there we could for ourselves experience "The View", the classic picture of Fallingwater as seen in every brochure or story about the house. Naturally, we took our own versions of this picture.

It was a great tour, and simply wonderful to experience all that the house has to offer, from the design philosophy to the harmony it achieves with the outdoor space it inhabits. A highly recommended outing.

I had noticed a number of guys walking around Fallingwater were wearing shirts with Fiat logos on them. Sure enough, it must have been some sort of road trip for them, as the parking lot was filled with all sorts of Fiats.

The skiis in the summer might be taking the "look" just a little too far

We stopped and explored Ohiopyle, a small town nested at the base of the hill, with a quant river flowing through it. Many rafting companies are located here, a constant stream of school buses transporting tourists upstream for a river adventure. We wandered through the stores then headed back to camp.

Did a little walk around the campgrounds, then made up a batch of burgers for the Q. We also called to make reservations for a tour of Kentuck Knob, another Wright house just down the road from the campsite. We figured, we're here, why not see it as well.


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