Fallingwater or Kaufmann Residence is a house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, 43 miles (69 km) southeast of Pittsburgh. The home was built partly over a waterfall onBear Run in the Mill Run section of Stewart Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains.
Time cited it after its completion as Wright’s “most beautiful job”; it is listed among Smithsonian‘s Life List of 28 places “to visit before you die.” It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. In 1991, members of the American Institute of Architects named the house the “best all-time work of American architecture” and in 2007, it was ranked twenty-ninth on the list of America’s Favorite Architecture according to the AIA.
At age 67, Frank Lloyd Wright was given the opportunity to design and have constructed three buildings. His three works of the late 1930s—Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin, and the Herbert Jacobs house in Madison, Wisconsin—brought him back into prominence in the architectural community.
Edgar Sr. had been prevailed upon by his son and Wright to subsidize the cost of a 12 foot square model of Wright’sBroadacre City. The model was initially displayed at an Industrial Arts Exposition in the Forum at the Rockefeller Centerstarting on April 15, 1935. After the New York exposition, Kaufmann Sr. arranged to have the model displayed in Pittsburgh at an exposition titled “New Homes for Old”, sponsored by the Federal Housing Administration. The exposition opened on June 18 on the 11th floor of Kaufmann’s store.
The Kaufmanns lived in “La Tourelle”, a French Norman estate designed by Pittsburgh architect Benno Janssen (1874–1964) in the Fox Chapel suburb in 1923 for Edgar J. Kaufmann. Wright visited Bear Run on Tuesday, December 18. The Kaufmanns and Wright were enjoying refreshments at La Tourelle when Wright said to Edgar Jr., in tones that the elder Kaufmanns were intended to overhear, “Edgar, this house is not worthy of your parents…” The remark spurred the Kaufmanns’ interest in something worthier. Fallingwater would become the end result.
The Kaufmanns owned property outside Pittsburgh with a waterfall and cabins they used as a rural retreat. When these cabins deteriorated, Mr. Kaufmann contacted Wright.
On December 18, 1934, Wright visited Bear Run and asked for a survey of the area around the waterfall. One was prepared by Fayette Engineering Company of Uniontown, Pennsylvania including all the site’s boulders, trees and topography, and forwarded to Wright in March 1935.
As reported by Wright’s apprentices at Taliesin, Kaufmann Sr. was in Milwaukee on September 22, nine months after their initial meeting, and called Wright at home early Sunday morning to surprise him with the news that he would be visiting Wright that day before lunch. He could not wait to see Wright’s plans. Wright had told Kaufmann in earlier communication that he had been working on the plans, but had not actually drawn anything. After breakfast that morning, amid a group of very nervous apprentices, Wright calmly drew the plans in the two hours in which it took Kaufmann to drive to the Taliesin.
Wright intended to build the home above the falls, rather than below them to afford a view of the cascades as he had expected. It is said that Kaufmann was initially very upset that Wright had designed the house to sit atop the falls. He had wanted the house located on the southern bank of Bear Run, directly facing the falls. He had told Wright that was his favorite aspect of the Bear Run property.
The original estimated cost for building Fallingwater was US$35,000. The final cost for the home and guest house was US$155,000, broken down as follows: house $75,000; finishing and furnishing $22,000; guest house, garage and servants’ quarters $50,000; architect’s fee $8,000. From 1938 through 1941 more than $22,000 would be spent on additional details and for changes in the hardware and lighting.
The total project price of $155,000, adjusted for inflation, is the equivalent of approximately $2.6 million in 2014. A reflection of the relative cost of the project in its time is that the cost of restoration alone in 2009 was reported at $11.4 million.
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