Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to get UNESCO world heritage site status

Sunday, July 6th, 2014. Filed under: Architecture United States

Fallingwater (1936) by Frank Lloyd Wright is located in Pennsylvania.
All photos by Lesley Peterson.

The world’s most famous (non-royal) house is being considered for UNESCO world heritage site status, along with ten other buildings by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959).

Perched over a waterfall in Bear Run Creek, Mill Run, Pennsylvania, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (1936) was famous even before it was finished. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, Fallingwater was named best all-time work of American architecture by the American Institute of Architects and ranks with the Pyramids of Giza and the Taj Mahal on the Smithsonian’s list of 28 places to see before you die.

Fallingwater (1936) has multiple terraces and is cantilevered over a waterfall.

Why is this country retreat – built for the owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store in Pittsburgh – so important in the history of architecture and design? Wright rejected popular styles of the day (like Gothic Revival and Neoclassical) which were based on centuries-old European architecture and created a new, distinctly American style that the architect felt expressed the nation’s democratic values. Wright houses were human in scale, in harmony with the landscape and reflected the order (geometry) of the universe.

Best exemplifying Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture, Fallingwater inspired architects around the world and influenced countless buildings with its integration into its site, strong horizontal and vertical lines, blending of outdoor and interior space and use of natural stone finishes. Wright himself has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects as the greatest American architect of all time.

Getting to Fallingwater involves checking in at a visitor centre and then strolling through a lush forest.

Today the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy maintains Fallingwater as a public museum. Visiting Fallingwater is by guided tour only. Tickets can be purchased online or at the on-site visitor center. Fallingwater is open every day except Wednesday from mid-March to the end of November. See the website for ticket and tour details.

Fallingwater is located about 80 km southeast of Pittsburgh in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains, Pennsylvania. I also visited another exquisite Frank Lloyd Wright house, Kentuck Knob, located just 11 km from Fallingwater. Also in the ‘neighborhood’, the jewel-box collection of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

Teen travelers

Families love the natural and cultural attractions of the Laurel Highlands.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is an hour by air or about six hours by car (512 km) from Toronto. For more on the natural and cultural attractions of Pittsburgh and countryside, see Visit Pittsburgh.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets this month to evaluate world heritage sites and consider new ones. For descriptions of the 11 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings under consideration, see UNESCO.

I highly recommend the book The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog by William Allin Storrer. This fascinating yet easy-to-read book covers built works by FLW, complete with maps and color photos.

Fallingwater vertical view

Behold Fallingwater (1936).


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