Fallingwater has always been a house I have wanted to see.  Living in Chicago we have many Frank Lloyd Wright houses and I have toured and seen many of them.  I have read many books about Frank Lloyd Wright, including The Fountain Head by Ayn Rand in which she modeled Howard Roark after Wright and his career.  So I went in with a lot of expectations and I was still surprised and excited when I walked the grounds and saw the house.

Fallingwater is set just up the road from the town of Ohiopyle (see our fun in Ohiopyle) on a small stream that feeds the Youghiogheny River called Bear Run.  Built in 1936 over a waterfall the house became an instant success.  Why is it so popular? 170,000 people tour the house per year. What attracted me?  I hoped to find some answers.

Quick answer, I learned Wright built so much more than a house.  He built a living experience.  Our family lives in a house; A rectangular a-frame and it provides 3 floors of living space.  The house is squeezed in-between two other houses and makes no connection to the surrounding area it was built on.  “Martha”, which the kids have named our house provides shelter, it is warm and comforting but built, at one time, to be affordable.  Fallingwater is the opposite. Every building material, design element, interior and exterior view was chosen to add or subtract from the experience of where it was built and how it enhances the area.

As we walked the grounds and the house it continued to surprise us.  The house literally defies gravity with its 30′ balconies.  It has as much exterior living space in its balconies, patios and gardens as it has in the interior rooms.  Private stairs providing a place to dip your toes into the waterfall before it crashes over the falls.  Entire walls of glass allowing copious amount of light inside and creating an living experience of never leaving the outside.  Let’s get to some pictures…

 

Walking the grounds of falling water. There are miles of paths surrounding the house.
Walking the grounds of falling water. There are miles of paths surrounding the house.

 

Bear Run Stream
Bear Run Stream

 

img_1115

 

When the house was built in the 1930's this river and surrounding land didn't look like this, EJ Kaufmann put a lot of working into the restoring the land.
When the house was built in the 1930’s this river and surrounding land didn’t look like this, EJ Kaufmann put a lot of working into restoring the land.

 

Kids enjoying the grounds.
Kids enjoying the grounds.

 

Surrounding streams
Surrounding streams

It was a beautiful walk to the house.  Long winding paths, the sound of water surrounding you as you pass through a thick forest.  Then you come upon a structure tucked away and barely visible through the trees.

 

The house can be approached from different sides but this was our first view. The main house.
The house can be approached from different sides but this was our first view. The main house.

 

Fallingwater, this is the Tershel family, Tershel family this is Fallingwater
Fallingwater, this is the Tershel family, Tershel family this is Fallingwater.

 

After crossing the bridge we expected to find a front door but we didn’t.  Instead we entered a tunneled space, leaving the forest and entering Fallingwater and not yet entering the house itself.

Approaching the front door Wright uses heavy beams to compress the space. Building anticipation.
Approaching the front door Wright uses heavy beams to compress the space. Building anticipation.

 

Wright refused to have elements that would distract from the design. Many of his house have gutters to nowhere.
Wright refused to have elements that would distract from the design. Many of his house have gutters to nowhere.

 

Many of his houses also utilized this technique. The entrance was "hidden" making you question whether you belonged there or not.
Many of his houses also utilized this technique. The entrance was “hidden” making you question whether you belonged there or not.

 

Releasing the compression
Finally releasing you into the open again, but still not the front door.

 

From here we wandered onto the first floor balcony, and found some stairs leading to a wading pool in the waterfall.  These stairs in this picture are right next to the wide stairs in the following picture but are not visible in the second picture.

Stairs to private pool built into the river.
Stairs to private pool built into the river.

 
These stairs provide a quiet place to dip your toes the river just before it passes over the falls.
These stairs provide a quiet place to dip your toes in the river just before it passes over the falls.

 

First floor balcony
First floor balcony

 

Second floor supported by a glass wall, at least that is what it looks like.
Second floor supported by a glass wall, at least that is what it looks like.  And of course an amazing view.

 

Gardens inside and out unifying the design.
Gardens inside and out unifying the design.

 

Glass on the walls, glass on the ceiling
Glass on the walls, glass on the ceiling

 

We continue wandering around the house…

Pulling light into every corner
Pulling light into every corner

 

Many of his houses utilize this element providing light and privacy to the inhabits.
Many of his houses utilize this window element providing light and privacy for the inhabits.

 

Caterpillar spinning a cocoon.
Caterpillar spinning a cocoon.

 

Would you walk out on that patio?
Would you walk out on that patio?

 

Massive cantilever

 

img_1143

 

The surrounding grounds are allowed to grow naturally.
The surrounding grounds are allowed to grow naturally.

 

Stairs down to guest house and more windows providing light and privacy.
Stairs down to guest house and more windows providing light and privacy.

 

Guest house entrance, a rather simple introduction.
Guest house entrance, a rather simple introduction.

 

Family at guest house
Family at guest house

 

Frog

 

Private pool for the guest house. Unused now and not treated with any chemicals.
Private pool for the guest house. Unused now and not treated with any chemicals.

 

Cantilevered roof and vines provide shade for the guest house.
Cantilevered roof and vines provide shade for the guest house.

 

Stairs from the guest house and yes the roof mimics the stairs.
Stairs from the guest house and yes the roof mimics the stairs.

 

img_1160
More hiking

 

Balconies escaping the house like water going over the falls.
Balconies escaping the house like water going over the falls.

 

The classic photograph of Fallingwater
The classic photograph of Fallingwater and look at all those people on that balcony.

 
img_1163

 

Close up of the falls
Close up of the falls

 

Family Fallingwater
Family Fallingwater

 

Overall an extremely enjoyable walk.  The kids were too young to go inside the house so we decided to just walk the grounds.  The house exceeded all expectations.  I found many surprises and elements I had not read about in books.  I was able to experience the house in its natural element, which is where Fallingwater needs to be seen.  The true mark of something great, it is better in person.  Thank you E.J Kaufmann and Frank Lloyd Wright.