Fallingwater

Though I wrote this piece several years ago, I think the questions are still timely.

Fallingwater

            In an issue of the  New York Times, Fred Bernstein wrote about structural problems with one of the most recognizable buildings in this country, a house called Fallingwater. Built in 1936 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this structure does indeed perch over a water fall.  Surprisingly, both the house and water are enhanced by the placement, just as Wright intended.  Cantilevers thrust the house into space echoing the water as it changes levels over the rocks.  The effect is stunning.  The effect may end soon.

The house is in danger of succumbing to gravity and tumbling down the cliff just as the water does because of the shortsightedness of one of this century’s great visionaries. Wright’s prickly personality was well known. He hated to be told what to do to the point of being a contrarian. As a result of this sort of hubris, his masterpiece is in danger of becoming a pile of broken concrete at the bottom of the cliff it now leans over.  When the contractor who was building the house suggested that there was not enough steel in the structure to support the weight of the concrete, Wright had one of his artistic snits and threatened to quit.  Wright eventually got his way, or so he thought. Now nature is having hers, even though when Wright wasn’t around, the contractor sneaked twice as much steel into the structure as Wright called for.  Despite this secret shoring,  the concrete, which usually stabilizes in a year, continues to bend.  The cantilevers droop lower and lower.  Without buttressing the layers of flying concrete will eventually no longer be able to support themselves.

It is a temptation to consider the possibility that it was Wright’s plan that art imitate nature to the ultimate degree at Fallingwater.  That the structure would eventually follow the water as it seeks a lower level.  Such thinking requires a stretch, a large stretch.  A stretch which would have to account for other Wright design flaws like flat roofs that leak and furniture that is striking in situ, but horrible to sit upon.

As I read Bernstien’s article, I smirked at one comment a visitor made about Wright.  He said, “It’s surprising that as good an architect as Wright screwed up.” I thought to myself, “Humph, this guy expects him to be perfect.”  Yet, in thinking about Wright and composing this exercise, that’s exactly what I caught myself doing.  While I’m interested in Wright and his work, it is the problems with Fallingwater which caught and held my attention.

Like all those we admire and label “Great” or “Genius”, when we strip away the cloak of their achievements, we very likely find the inconsistencies and paradoxes the rest of us labor under. Why then, do we expect perfection in all aspects of their lives?  Why then do we gloat when we find their humanity? Perhaps the difference is that those whose achievements and lives rise above the rest, manage to disentangle themselves enough from the mundane to soar. Their genius is risk that succeeded.

 

 

Advertisements

Author: mastout

I'm a writer and poet who dabbles in photography. I'm interested in many things and love to learn new stuff.

5 thoughts on “Fallingwater”

    1. Oops. comment went on the wrong post, but still appropriate. Curious about what state Fallingwater is in currently, after just reading about someone who recently visited, but never mentioned the structural issues. So it IS worth googling. hahahaha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad you took the trouble to look it up. I am having problems posting pictures. Still frustrated with WordPress. OH..it’s in Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburg.

        Like

    1. I think there are lots of examples of wonderful art and other work coming from people you wouldn’t want as friends. I’ll bet you know people you wouldn’t want to spend time with, but who are wonderful with horses. I think a lot about if you can separate the two, how much one informs the other. Bill Clinton is a fine example. Hope he doesn’t become what the election is about.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s