From the moment Fallingwater was built, critics recognized this private retreat for Edgar J. Kaufmann, a Pittsburgh department store magnate, as a masterpiece of modern architecture. It is one of Wright's boldest creations, integrating architecture and nature. Situated atop a waterfall in a wooded ravine in western Pennsylvania, the house is anchored to a large boulder, which serves in the interior as the central hearth and the symbolic core of domestic life. From here the house extends vertically and horizontally in rhythmic patterns out into the landscape. Made of rough-cut stone from a nearby quarry, the walls and chimney complement the natural strata of the site.
As shown in The Museum of Modern Art's model, sleek cantilevered balconies of reinforced concrete, made possible by modern engineering, seem to float effortlessly, if precariously, over the water. Their shape echoes the stepped rock ledges in the stream. An outdoor staircase suspended from below the living room leads to the plunge pool below.
Fallingwater embodies Wright's deeply held values about the underlying unity of humans and nature, which is reflected in his selection of building materials. As a great work of art, Fallingwater transcends its function as a house to meet a client's needs and symbolizes an American democratic ideal: to be able to live a free life in nature.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art , MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 171.