|Posted by Stuart DiNenno on June 21, 2012 at 7:55 AM|
This post is the first in a series of three articles that examines Fallingwater, a work of residential architecture and landscape design by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Image: Wally Gobetz
In 1909, Edgar J. Kaufmann took his first walk along a landscape of wooded slopes in Western Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, and he caught his earliest glimpse of a breathtaking waterfall on Bear Run. At the time, Kaufmann was a prominent department store proprietor who lived about seventy miles away in Pittsburgh, but over the next few decades, this rural, picturesque site would come to play an increasingly significant role in his life. The landscape’s serene beauty and rushing waters would serve to enhance both his business relationships and the life of his growing family.
It is clear that the scenery and sense of sanctuary that Kaufmann discovered upon his first visit to this woodland landscape was not soon forgotten; twenty years later he purchased 1,600 acres of the property, with the Bear Run waterfall at its heart. He then set out creating something of fresh-air retreat, inviting others to join him in escaping the inhospitable conditions of a booming, industrial city. Visitors to the landscape, mostly Kaufmann’s employees and family members, slept in a hodgepodge of cabins throughout the landscape, and they enjoyed such recreational activities as “tennis, swimming, volleyball, hayrides, picnicking, sunbathing, theater, singing, and ‘quiet’ reading.”
Images courtesy of the Minerd-Miner Family Archives
As another decade passed, Kaufmann decided that he wanted his family to grow even closer to the site. Seeking more than the primitive, temporary cabins that had made up his summer camp, he imagined building a permanent structure for his family on the landscape. He wanted a home built that would overlook the Bear Run falls, and with the help of his extensive family wealth, Kaufmann was able to seek out the services of the most high-profile architect of his time. In December of 1934, Kaufmann hired Frank Lloyd Wright.
Image courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Author: Sam Valentine, BLA, LEED AP