Monday, October 15, 2012


I knew I'd get around to sharing this eventually! Part two of my recent road trip out east: a little slice of heaven, Frank Lloyd Wright style.

Fallingwater, in Mill Run, PA, is a little off the beaten path, and you need a car, or at least an organized bus (orrr a really good idea of bus routes) to get there. Mill Run is kind of a funky, claptrap kind of town. There are some cute buildings downtown, but many of the shopfronts are shut and a number of enormous and once very ornate houses on the main street are now boarded over and abandoned. The typical American downtown in the 21st century?

My sister and I had our own car, as it was a road trip, so the challenge was not so much getting there, but finding it. I managed to veer down an alley at one point, thinking myself the totally-on-top-of-it road warrior, but Mill Run has some funny intersections and a number of one-ways, so beware, tentative driver, if you happen to find yourself there.

When we made it through Mill Run proper and out into the country, we followed a hilly road to the entrance of the park, which is demarcated by a lovely FLW-esque sign that and a beautiful little drive into the parking area through shady trees which hadn't quite started to turn color yet.

After purchasing our tickets, we parked and made for the visitor center, which is kind of wonderful in itself. The central desk is the nucleus of this little amoeba of a visitor pavilion, with little arms that stretched out to encompass the restrooms, a cafe, and the gift shop. It was all quite nice. After a cursory look around the museum shop, our tour was called -- you have to book a tour to see the house -- and we wandered down gravel trails through the woods until we came upon this:

We met our tour guide on a bridge that used to be the driveway around the back of the house and up to the car ports. The water was low that day, as the summer had been so dry, but there was a trickle. The platform at the bottom of the stairwell was several inches above the water, but often hovers at water level when the stream is more active.

Not the best photo, admittedly, but I loved the way the house seemed so float in the forest as we walked in front of it. And from this angle you get a good idea of the number and significance of the windows in the place.

We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the house, which was unsurprising. True to Wright, there was a tendency for small bedrooms and small walkways that opened up into expansive common areas and out onto the numerous terraces. Standing on the various levels and seeing the house and the grounds from different perspectives was really amazing in itself. It seemed never to end.

My favorite thing about Wright was his inclination, especially with this house, to preserve, work with, and emphasize nature. All of the rooms had windows and/or terraces that brought the outside in. And not only that, but he made sure there was very little that obstructed that view. The way the corner windows hinged open on the outsides and left openness in the middle as opposed to a window frame to block the view was genius. But it was also the little things. The original owner wanted a large desk in his bedroom, but there were swinging windows that would be in the way, so Wright simply cut out a quarter-circle shape in the surface of the desk so that the window could still swing open. Outside, the photo below sort of illustrates how no detail was overlooked:

All of Wright's furniture was integrated perfectly with the house; the craftsmanship was unbelievable.

Even if Wright it's my all-time favorite architect, there is still some serious respect to be had for someone who could design something of such beauty -- and something so livable. It was an awesome opportunity to see one of the most iconic houses in the world, and I'm glad we made it there.

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