My parents and I found ourselves in southwestern Pennsylvania. The only reason we were there was because one of my cousins was getting married. My Dad saw a sign advertising the location of a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, “Fallingwater.” I only knew that the house was recognized as a feat of architecture. I was surprised we ran across it here in the-middle-of-no-where, Pennsylvania. This middle-of-no-where wasn’t even the intriguing or remarkable type of middle-of-no-where. I found it quite boring; there were lots of trees, a few small towns, lots of hills, and that’s about it.
Fallingwater was mildly interesting so we decided to check it out. Having arrived at the site we paid for overly priced tickets and waited overly long before we were allowed to meet up with our tour guide. We took the long walk down to the house where we were informed that photography was strictly prohibited.
The first thing that I noticed as we crossed the bridge to the entrance of the house was the stream running under the structure. There was a little staircase with a place to sit dangling from under the house, over the stream. “Wow,” I said, “That’s actually pretty cool.” As our tour group progressed through the house, my amazement continued to escalate. I always thought the act of constructing a building required the obliteration of the surrounding environment to make it suitable for construction. With Fallingwater, it was as if the house was integrated with its surroundings. The stream flows beneath the house and the fireplace was composed of boulders on the site. Even when the glass and the stone met, the glass was caulked directly to the stone. The visitor is also encouraged to go outside and partake of the beauteous environment and setting. Wright does this by his use of low ceilings and broad expanses of windows. There was about as much square feet of terrace space as there was of indoor space.
I always thought of humans as a plague upon Mother Earth. We claim territory by tearing down the surrounding nature and move on. Frank Lloyd Wright’s house taught me that even though we are these super-advanced humans, we are still animals berthed from Mother Nature and should live in harmony rather than divergence. Unfortunately, it seems that Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision is nowhere to be found in contemporary architecture. Modern housing seems to be about building the largest house the cheapest way possible. This results in disgusting urban sprawl that demolishes the environment it inhabits.
I left Fallingwater with astonishment. I never knew a house could convey any type of message to me, let alone a message that could radically change my perception of reality. As we drove back to our residence, I stared out the window of our van admiring the vast and gorgeous sea of hills covered with beautiful green trees, hills upon hills of luscious, beautiful trees.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.