2 Hours and he nailed it!
I have told this story before however I am going to tell it again..because it is a good one.
Legend has it that Frank Lloyd Wright designed the iconic Fallingwater Residence in one 2-hour design session. I have heard many versions of this story. The basic bones of the legend are that the client, Edgar Kaufman Sr., called Frank one day alerting him that he would be stopping by to see the the progress on the design. Kaufman would meet Wright at his studio at Taliesin East.
Meanwhile, Wright had yet to even begin the first drawing of the house. Rather than postpone the meeting like any sane person would do, Wright sat down at the drafting table and proceeded to pour out one drawing after another of the now famous Fallingwater residence. And let's just say that he nailed it. Fallingwater is one of the most influential residences of the 20th century. 2 hours...and he nailed it.
Apparently, Wright was known for completely conceptualizing his designs in his head before putting them on paper. And would often draw them in one draft. I am sure that these stories have been embellished over time, but I do believe that there is a kernel of truth in there. Wright was a genius and over his long career he had an incredible output of ground breaking designs. If you are going to design as many buildings as Wright did, then you better be quick.
The reason that this is 'legend,' is that Wright's process is nothing like how the rest of us work. For the rest of us mere mortal architects, the design of a building takes much more time and energy.
My Architectural Bucketlist
Every architect has a list of buildings that they must see before they kick the bucket. I’d bet that Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is on all of those lists.
I had the opportunity to visit Fallingwater last month while in Pennsylvania for the AIA National Convention. The convention was actually in Philadelphia which is 4 hours from Fallingwater however I decided this was the perfect time to visit. After all, this trip was all about architectural enrichment, so why not! (Archi-nerd alert!)
Pictures do not do it justice.
Fallingwater did not disappoint. In fact it exceeded all of my expectations. The building is so thoughtfully integrated into the landscape and the technological feats are super impressive.
I was most impressed with the interiors of the house. Probably because my previous education focused so much on the exterior of Fallingwater. It is also hard to really appreciate an interior space from a photo.
Similiar to many of Wright's designs, the ceilings are quite low. Most are between 7-8'. There are occasional pop ups. The lower ceilings emphasize the horizontal lines and force your eye out into the landscape.
Much of the original furniture has been preserved or recreated. There are built-in pieces of furniture everywhere. They even have the original artwork that hung at the time when the Kaufmans last lived in the residence.
Quick video of the living room.
God is in the Details
One of Wright's contemporaries: Mies van der Rohe is often attributed with the idiom God is in the Details. The complexity of the details at Fallingwater is out of this world. I was very impressed with the sophistication of the window wall that is now 80 years old. The tour guide confirmed that the frames are original but the glass has been replaced.
Check out the way this window wall dies into the stone wall.
The conclusion of the tour is a short walk over to the spot where the most famous images of the building's exterior are shot. It is pretty spectacular.
Here is a 12 second video where you can see the view and hear the waterfall.
2 Times for D
Kudos to Super Wife D for making the pilgrimage with me. This is actually the 2nd time Danielle has been to Fallingwater. Lucky!
Happy but Sad....
I left Fallingwater with mixed feelings. I was in total awe from seeing this masterpiece. I had goose bumps the entire time and was super inspired. It also felt like the perfect closure to my architecture trip.
I also felt a little perturbed. The building is 80 years old and it is out of this world kick-ass! So kick-ass that It was intimidating. I can’t imagine ever accomplishing anything to this degree of excellence. I guess you could say it was humbling.
As I looked back across Bear Run at the cantilevered masterpiece, listening to the waterfall I thought to myself: "How the hell am I supposed to return to the real world of architecture that is devoid of waterfalls and big budgets."