Friday, April 15, 2016

Falling Water- a House designed by Frank Loyd Wright

Our trip north, whether we traveled it with our home or Honda, was always planned with a visit to Falling Waters in mind.  Just something John had read about, I was not so enamored with the idea until I saw a picture of  the house in the National Geographic magazine Traveler ( Oct. 2001 edition).  The magazine lists the house as one of 50 places to visit of a life time.
This home is so popular that it is necessary to schedule a guided tour of this place ahead of time, which we did.  The day we were there, despite the inclement weather, the last two tours of the day were filled up.  We arrived earlier than planned and were able to take a different tour than we were scheduled for, however.  We were glad that worked out as it then gave us more time to explore the area surrounding the house after our tour before the park closed for the day.
To get to the house we walked on a footpath, along a creek.  Over the driveway are concrete trellis beams, for that time (1939) it was a modern porte-cochere.  The outside stairs, rocks and plantings of the surrounding woods, create a very inviting approach to the house.  And that is only the beginning, for once I entered the house I wanted to sit down and never get up again.  There was a fire blazing in the fireplace, and large flat rocks are placed in front of  fireplace- giving a feeling of the outside coming in.  In this living room area there is also a hatch, which when opened,  reveals cantilevered steps leading down to Bear Run River.  Edgar Kaufmann, his wife and son, used that opening to swim in the river.  Opening the hatch also allowed cool air to flow through the house.  The hatch, as well as many windows and doors keeps the house cool.  We could not take pictures inside the house- but I was able to get a good picture outside of the steps leading down to the water from the living room.
This was a week-end retreat for the Kaufmans.  They were owners of Pittsburgh's largest department store in 1939 and wanted to build a home on their mountain property in Bear Run.  Frank Loyd Wright suggested that they build their home in the woods over the falls. Three reinforced concrete beams were keyed directly into a large boulder.  That and a large tower of reinforced concrete support the home over its watery bed.   The picture below best shows those details.
I like how Marie Ridder in Travler described this home: "an odd combination of strength, fluidity, poetry and earthiness".   Regarding the latter, everywhere I went in this house I could look out at tangled vegetation of the woods with its towering oak and birch trees.  With the windows and doors opened I could hear the water crashing down over the falls as well birds singing and chattering.  I am very sure that given a few more weeks the winter scene would be gone, trees and flowers would be blooming.
Outside of the Visitor Center I found one wildflower in the woods which is presently starting to bloom.  It is called a Lenten rose, even though it does not belong in the rose family.  Someone had thoughtfully placed one open bloom of the plant in a vase in the museum.  I later also found a purple variety of this flower.
One additional note here.  According to our tour guide it was Frank Loyd Wright who coined the word "car port".  He did not like garages, as they were places where clutter gathered.  Falling Water has a car port.

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