by - Friday, June 19, 2015

Just follow the sound of the water...

A car ride brought us to the narrow winding road tunneled by trees. Foliage green was heavily saturated with color, partly because of humidity, also because we were so far west in the midst of a different atmospheric locale. The air was fresher and dewy, richer, therapeutic, well worth the hour and a half from Pittsburgh. We parked and followed others to the tree house visitor center to join a tour group. The twenty minute interim until the next afforded us a chance to explore the gift shop, so we could assess any material accumulation chosen to be hauled home after our excursion.
The "visit us" page online forewarned we would travel at least one hundred steps, so be prepared to walk a lot at Fallingwater, a very special mountain retreat built over a waterfall. America's famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, designed and built this gem for his clients, the Kaufmann family between 1936 and 1939. Today, it is a National Historic Landmark, well worth the title once you experience the magic and makeup of this incredible dwelling.

Upon entering Fallingwater, photographs are prohibited in the house though permissible on the grounds outside. It is the only building designed by Wright open to the public as it was originally conceived in its setting, with all interior furnishings and artworks in tact. It is surrounded by the Bear Run Nature Reserve, all devotedly maintained by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

To think this was a vacation home for the Kaufmanns, a place to escape Pittsburgh on weekends away from the "smoky city" and their department store (now known as Macy's). It is noted the family's surprise when they viewed Wright's initial concept drawings, all with an absence of a view of the falls. His proposed house would be built on top of the falls instead, providing a more profound engagement with nature from the surrounding sound of the water. Wright wanted them to live with nature, with the water, instead of admiring an occasional passing view from a window. Thankfully, thousands continue to see this manifested vision in Fallingwater every year.

Inside the house, though a rainy day, a feeling of intentional compression from the lower ceilings and dim light force you to the doors and windows on each floor, in each room, with a desire to retreat to any terrace outside. An intriguing sensation, it was a very fine line between cozy and confined.

The entire house is built within unaltered nature. Even in the first floor living room area, the hearth is actually part of the same rock formation seen outside the wall. Wright on the cover of Time magazine in 1938, his ecological creation surely captivated the imagination of many enthusiasts at the time.

As the guides hailed to us, Just follow the sound of the water, folks... if you don't hear it, go back and take the other path... it will lead you to Fallingwater...

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