Fallingwater, or the Kaufmann Residence, is one of the most famous private homes designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935. The house was designed to protrude over a waterfall on Bear Run in the Mill Run section of Stewart Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains.
Completed at a total cost of $155,000 (including $4,500 for the home’s all-walnut furnishings alone), Fallingwater instantly became an icon of American architecture. Hailed by Time magazine as Wright’s “most beautiful job”, it is listed among Smithsonian’s Life List of 28 places “to visit before you die.” Wright initially intended that the home’s concrete surfaces be coated entirely in gold leaf; for undisclosed reasons, yet that remains easy to guess, the color palate became a more sparingly practical one of light ochre and Cherokee red, supplied by locals PPG Pittsburgh Paints.
There are many beautiful works of art around the house. You can find Picasso prints, antique Mexican ceramics, modern sculptures, and Diego Rivera paintings. There are also medieval Madonna sculptures, African sculptures, and antiquities from many different cultures, and even a giant Buddha head adorning a terrace.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, in 1991 members of the American Institute of Architects also named the house the “best all-time work of American architecture.” In 2007, it was ranked twenty-ninth on the list of America’s Favorite Architecture according to the AIA.
Fallingwater remains Wright’s only major work open to the public with all its initial components – from furniture to original architectural features and artwork – intact and on display, accounting for the nearly 4.5 million visitors that have passed through its doors since 1964.
When Fallingwater was first moved into by the wealthy Kauffman family as a summer house, however visionary and beautiful it was, there was a significant problem: Water kept dripping through more than 50 leaks in the ceiling. When pressed for a solution, the architect just said to “Put a bucket under it.” And today, the problem continues, so they do just as Frank Lloyd Wright originally advised.
Know Before You Go
Fallingwater is located in southwest Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands about 90 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. The house is located along PA Route 381 between the villages of Mill Run and Ohiopyle. It is approximately 19 miles south of the Donegal exit (Exit #91) of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) or 10 miles north of US Route 40. Inside photography is unfortunately not permitted unless you purchase a special tour package. However, be sure to bring your camera to capture the iconic shot of the house perched on top of the waterfall!