This past April (while on a road trip from NJ to KC), I had the opportunity to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s domestic commission, Fallingwater, nestled in the woods of Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburg.
What is immediately clear upon approach is that Lloyd knows his architectural history. It would appear that Wright synthesized certain principles of design from across a spectrum of cultures and histories. These principles of balance and grace were clarified, and then combined to achieve a new harmony. Clean lines, flawless integration with its natural surroundings, and modular domestic amenities inside and out are reminiscent of Japanese architecture. Every square inch of space, overlap and point of contact is considered.
One of the most glaring differences between experiencing this home and contemporary homes are that the proportions of everything- thresholds, to rooms and windows, planters and the pool- each one is so contentious.
Frankly, I was shocked to see Wright use an ochre color of paint applied to concrete shaped into soft round, repeating curves. When I think of Wright’s style, angular bricks in squat midwest prairie iterations spring to mind. In my humble opinion, Falling Water also references Adobe abodes, so characteristic to the American Southwest.
The ochre body with red window trim made the home both pop and recede into the foliage depending on the strength of the sun through the clouds that day. I overheard a passing guide mention the color was derived from the underside of a fallen, dead leaf.
“Paint Colors: Wright’s desire to create a unified and organic composition limited the color palette at Fallingwater. Only two colors were used throughout: a light ochre for the concrete and his signature Cherokee red for the steel (PPG Pittsburgh Paints). –Fallingwater Facts
Even though this home was built in 1936, its vision and clarity resonates today. I wonder what kind of lives were enriched by existing amidst nature mingling with these walls. Fallingwater is a fantastic specimen of “superstruct,” the original foundation here literally being nature and conceptually being a myriad of architectural histories/principles that are built upon. It is a structure quietly ahead of its time.