Gaines Group Architects

50. Fallingwater #105architecturalinspirations

50. Falling Water #105architecturalinspirations

Fallingwater was designed for the Kaufmann family by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. The vacation home, built over a waterfall, is an example of pure architectural sculpture. The beauty of the structure derived from nature surrounding the home gives a sense of organic form. The structure is incredible.


The idea that Wright used was to mimic the stone ledges that existed on the site prior to the home. This resulted in cantilevered balconies giving the family multiple experiences immersed in nature. The home includes stone outcroppings inside the home and stone ledge walls blending the interior to the exterior. There is a “hatch” that leads to stairs down to the water right out of the living area. The large glass walls open up the house and frame views into the treetops. The glass corners give the sense of floating slabs of concrete above your head.

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Wright designed the furniture, the shelves, the walls in an organic style using a mixture of concrete, stone, steel, and wood. The rooms are smaller than what is typical today and several rooms are intentionally smaller with lower ceiling heights to enhance a particular experience that Wright believed was important. The placement of the house brings the sound of the waterfall directly into the living experience but makes the view of the waterfall hard to see. 

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Fallingwater is an interesting case study in architectural design (emphasis on design). The clients asked for a house that provided views of the waterfall they loved. The construction budget given by the clients was $30,000 (the average at the time was $5,000). The architect designed a home that is on the waterfall they loved and his construction budget goal was $50,000. The house eventually was built for $150,000. 

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The idea of designing a home for a client that effectively blocked the views that they loved is beyond arrogant by today’s standards. To deliver a design that was 5 times the ideal budget today would lead to immediate termination. The boldness that it took for this brilliant design to be created is more than I can understand. 

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#105architecturalinspirations is a collection of architectural details, buildings, and spaces that inspire me. I am taking on the challenge of finding two projects to spotlight each week in 2015. Hopefully I will be able to keep up and this process of discovery will push me to create better design solutions for my clients as I research and learn more about those projects I enjoy most. I challenge you to add your comments below about this project and to post your own inspirations for all to enjoy.  Full List of previous #105architecturalinspiration posts 1 – 20. First 20 architectural inspirations here21. Michael Graves 22. St. Augustine 23. Guggenheim Museum24. Ocho House25.Bjarke Ingels 26. WG Clark 27. John F. Kennedy Space Center 28.Akademie Mont-Cenis 29. Sustainability Treehouse 30. Porch Rail 31.Martin Lurther King Jr. Memorial 32. Warehouse Renvoation33.Architectural Salvage Warehouse 34. Thorncrown Chapel 35.Gabion Wall 36.Rectorat de Guyane Library  37. North Bay House 38.Old Ranch Road Barn 39.Eagle Rock Residence 40.Pratt Street Power Plant 41.United Therapeutics Field House 42. Porch House 43. Headwaters 44. Ben’s Barn 45. Kevin Mundy Memorial Bridge 46.  Thrupp + Summers House 47. Madrona Residence 48. Pixel Building 49. National Constitution Center

Architect on Vacation

My girls decided to treat me to a day trip to celebrate my birthday. We visited Falling Water in Pennsylvania, which is only a 3 hour drive from our house (and I had never been before).


The trip started with beautiful views of clean energy production along the mountains in both West Virginia and Maryland. These structures are so large they make the trees look tiny.

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There were also incredible mountain and farmland views along the way.


When we arrived at Fallingwater, we walked down the same driveway that once brought Frank Lloyd Wright (and of course the Kaufmann Family) to the property. The structure that Wright created is an incredible work of art. More on the house in a later blog post.


After many pictures of architectural details (of which Hannah said: “Dad takes some pictures of really weird things”) we traveled back to Ohiopyle just a few minutes up the road. There we walked along the river to see a few waterfalls, across two former railroad bridges that now create a wonderful hiking trail network, and of course visited one of the local ice cream shops.

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This cool rainwater collection system had a rain garden right along the roadway. The curb cuts allowed stormwater to enter the rain garden. This reduces storm water runoff down the road and filters pollutants before reaching the river.


The day would not be complete without finding cool buildings (outside of the destination Fallingwater)! This is the old train station and new visitors center in Ohiopyle. The visitors center had rainwater collection, vegetated roof, and exposed ductwork.



What a fun day (of looking at buildings and spending time with my girls)!