Visiting Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece

Last weekend, my boyfriend D and I embarked at what we called our ‘Epic East coast road trip’. Little did we know how that a small storm by the name of Irene would change our plans. Our original plan was to spend a day in Philadelphia, PA, two days in Virginia Beach, VA, one day in Washington, DC and one in Pittsburgh,PA before heading for home. Obviously given the storm’s path our jaunt to the beach was out, so we ended up spending an extra day each in Philadelphia and Washington.

By the time we made it to Pittsburgh, we didn’t quite feel like wandering around another city, especially since it didn’t have the same famous history as our other two stops. Luckily I had discovered in my searches for things to see on our trip that Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic masterpiece is only about 1.5hrs from Pittsburgh, and completely worth the trip.

The cantilevered structure of Fallingwater

Fallingwater was built by the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh (owners of Kaufmann’s department store) in 1937 as a weekend retreat. The main house has 4 bedrooms – one for the Mr, one for the Mrs, one for their son, and one for a guest. The guest cottage which was completed two years later, has one guest room, and also the servant quarters.

The living room at Fallingwater. The furniture was also mostly designed by Wright.

Fallingwater was built by local laborers, and almost immediately upon its completion was hailed as a masterpiece. Time Magazine put the home on the cover of its magazine, and in their Jan 17, 1938 issue called it Wright’s ‘most beautiful work’. More recently it’s made Smithsonian Magazine’s Life list: ’43 places to see before you die’. (As an aside, I’ve seen 7 of the places  on the list – 6 in the past 8 years).

These corner windows open outward for an unobstructed view

Fallingwater is built over the waterfall on Bear Run stream, and mimics the land on which it sits. The building consists of concrete cantilevers that appear to be almost natural extensions of the landscape that surrounds the falls and the building. Wright’s use of cantilevers meant that floor and ceiling were independently supported and didn’t need any extra structural support (usually found surrounding windows) around the exteriors of the building. This allowed him to design corner windows that could be opened outwards giving an uninterrupted view of the natural environment surrounding the house.

Fallingwater’s windows

There are several different tours available at Fallingwater – a grounds tour, and regular tour where interior photo’s are not allowed, and the in-depth tour where you can take interior pictures as long as they remain for personal use.


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