Among architectural wonders, the most celebrated house in America must be Fallingwater, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935, “probably the most frequently illustrated house of the twentieth century” (Nuttgens 1997, p. 264). Fallingwater is built above a waterfall in a ravine called Bear Run. The house was designed for Edgar Kaufmann, Sr., a millionaire Pittsburgh businessman. It was used as the Kaufmanns’ weekend home from 1937 to 1963, when it was donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and opened to the public as a museum in 1964.
Even photographs of the building (see Figure 14-3) evoke serenity and partake of the beauty of the house and its surroundings. Wright strove to integrate nature and architecture, to make art and nature reflect each other; in Fallingwater nature is drawn inside the building, and the building becomes a part of it. This is a masterpiece of modern architecture that still invites us to contemplate the meanings that the architect wanted to put into his art.
But a house is not only an object to behold, but something to live in. We cannot live in Fallingwater—at best we can only visit it—but perhaps we can imagine how living in it would be.
It is very likely that we would be wrong. In Steward Brand’s How Buildings Learn (1995, p. 58), we learn that:
Wright’s late-in-life triumph, Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, celebrated by that AIA poll as the “best all-time work of American architecture,” lives up to its name with a plague ...