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After a glorious night in the nearby Duncan House we ventured over to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater for an 11:30 am tour. We wound up going on the vanilla one-hour tour although I had hoped we would be able to sign up for the three-hour, in-depth tour that started at 8:30. The true bonus (for me at least) for the in-depth tour would have been the ability to take interior photos, something that's not allowed on the standard tour. Unfortunately, I procrastinated too long in reserving tickets (was concerned about having to cancel the trip due to work obligations...) and when I finally went to sign up the detailed Gilligan tour was sold out. On the bright side, we were able to enjoy a mellow morning at the Duncan House, which made the planning glitch a blessing in disguise.
When Frank designed Fallingwater in 1935 at the age of 69, he had built only two projects for clients over the previous eight years. Although much of this was due to the Great Depression (~1929 to ~1939), it was also due to his falling popularity and relevance. The International Style with its sleek whiteness, lack of ornamentation, and bright interiors had become de rigueur. Corbusier had made a splash with Villa Savoye in 1928, Richard Neutra turned heads for the Lovell Health House in 1929, Schindler's Buck House was completed in 1934, and a number of other International Style houses were being built all over the country and world, their photos sprinkled across numerous magazines and newspapers. Wright, meanwhile, had been focused on the heavy and monumental architecture of textile blocks and Mayan revival as well as several tired-at-the-time Prairie-style homes.
With Fallingwater, Frank fused International Style with his organic architecture (something R.M. Schindler started doing in 1921). He grounded International Style literally into the ground by building a Modern house onto and into the rocks along Bear Run Creek. And the results are stunning. The house is beautifully framed in the Pennsylvanian hills with a creek running under and to the side of the house. The cantilevers are breathtaking, and the neoplasticism, all those intersecting planes, is expertly gorgeous. Unusual for Wright, there is no ornamentation except for that provided by the natural materials, namely the stone core and bones of the building.
That same year, Wright went on to design the Johnson Wax Administration Building and develop the concept of Usonian homes, the seed of which has been planted in 1933's Willey House.
Maybe someday we'll make it back for the three-hour tour...