Review: Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E.J. Kaufmann, and America’s Most Extraordinary House

Franklin Toker (2003)

A fascinating look at the creation of Fallingwater, one of the most famous homes in the world. Perched over a waterfall in rural Pennsylvania, Fallingwater is a perfect example of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s melding of nature and design. With its striking horizontal lines and dramatic cantilevered terraces, concrete and stone surrounded by woods, rhododendron and rushing water, Fallingwater has a special place in the history of modern architecture and helped revive Wright’s failing career. From the beginning, Fallingwater captured critical and public attention in a manner rare for architecture, let alone that for a private home. Fallingwater’s allure continues today. Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to western Pennsylvania see this architectural icon. Toker’s book gives you a deeper understanding why.

FallingwaterAs a house biography, Fallingwater Rising relates how historical, artistic, and personal events convened at just the right time to spark the design and construction of one of the finest architectural achievements of the 20th, and some would say any, century. It’s also the story of complex relationships: between architect and client (Wright and Kaufmann); father and son (Kaufmann and his son, who acted as steward of the house after his parents’ death and was responsible for many of the myths surrounding Fallingwater); Wright and his contemporaries; and the house and its environment (almost immediately, Fallingwater began falling apart).

Fallingwater Rising was an especially interesting read for me, since my recent visit to the house was fresh in my mind. Obviously, there’s quite a bit you don’t learn on a one-hour tour, but there’s also a definite way the house tour is spun to paint a rosier picture. I puzzled over some of the things said (or unsaid) by the guide, and was curious to learn more about the people responsible for this house, the choices they made, and how they lived in the space. Fallingwater Rising provides fascinating insight.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E.J. Kaufmann, and America’s Most Extraordinary House

  1. I was looking for photos of the Goldsworthy on the property of the Farnsworth home when I found your blog. I work at Kentuck Knob and just wanted to comment on your thoughts on the Fallingwater tour. I know that at the Hagan house certain information is not offered unless asked for, and certain topics are taboo, even if asked about. I can’t exactly speak for Fallingwater’s tour guides, but I could hazard a guess that it is the same situation there. In addition, the guides at our house are provided basic information for tours and the tour guides are expected to do their own research after that. We have new guides and guides that have been there for years. So it depends on the tour guide you are lucky enough to get!

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