STORY OF FALLINGWATER
CHRONOLOGY OF CONSTRUCTION
THE STORY OF FALLINGWATER
Fallingwater is recognized as one of Wright's most acclaimed works, and in a 1991 poll of members of the American Institute of Architects, it was voted "the best all-time work of American architecture." It is a supreme example of Frank Lloyd Wright's concept of organic architecture, which promotes harmony between man and nature through design so well integrated with its site that buildings, furnishings, and surroundings become part of a unified, interrelated composition. Wright embraced modern technology to achieve this, designing spaces for living which expressed architecturally the expansive freedom of the American frontier.
For Fallingwater, designed in 1935 for the Edgar J. Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh, Wright responded to the family's love for a waterfall on Bear Run, a rushing mountain stream. Mimicking a natural pattern established by its rock ledges, Wright placed the house over the falls in a series of cantilevered concrete "trays," anchored to masonry walls made of the same Pottsville sandstone as the rock ledges. Although the house rises over 30' above the falls, strong horizontal lines and low ceilings help maintain a sheltering effect. Almost as much floor space is taken up by outdoor terraces as indoor rooms.
Construction began in 1936, and ended with the completion of the guest house in 1939. The Kaufmann family used Fallingwater in all seasons as a weekend or vacation home until the 1950's, when their son inherited it. Edgar Kaufmann, jr., by then a Curator at New York's Museum of Modern Art, continued to use Fallingwater until he entrusted it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963. His gift was lauded by the architectural community as a commendable act of preservation during a time in which many Wright-designed buildings were being demolished or in serious states of disrepair.
Fallingwater is the only great Wright house open to the public with its setting, original furnishings, and art work intact. Almost all of the original Wright-designed furnishings are still in place. Fine art, textiles, objets d'art, books, and furnishings collected by the Kaufmann family from the 1930's through the 1960's are on view, and represent the eclectic tastes of a sophisticated, world-traveled family. Included in the collections are works by Audubon, Tiffany, Diego Rivera, Picasso, Jacques Lipchitz, Richmond Barthe, and woodblock prints by Japanese artists Hiroshige and Hokusai - gifts from Frank Lloyd Wright to the Kaufmanns.
"There in a beautiful forest was a solid, high rock ledge rising beside a waterfall, and the natural thing seemed to be to cantilever the house from that rock bank over the falling water....Then came (of course) Mr. Kaufmann's love for the beautiful site. He loved the site where the house was built and liked to listen to the waterfall. So that was a prime motive in the design. I think that you can hear the waterfall when you look at the design. At least it is there, and he lives intimately with the thing he loves." -- Frank Lloyd Wright in an interview with Hugh Downs, 1954
Fallingwater became famous even before it was finished and its fame increased decade by decade. This is because the house in its setting embodies a powerful ideal - that people today can learn to live in harmony with nature. As technology uses more and more natural resources, as the world's population grows even larger, harmony with nature is necessary for the very existence of mankind.
Designed by a master artist, Fallingwater is closely harmonious with its land. Originally the house and land together brightened the life of a family; now, they are open to the public. Life, land, and artistry combine to give Fallingwater its unmistakable character.
Given the contour of the land, Wright located a house anchored in the rock next to the falls, jutting over the stream and counterweighted by massing at the back. Wright oriented the house to the southeast as he preferred, extending floors in horizontal bands which echoed rock ledges. The house would hover serenely over the water. Just uphill in a quarry on the property, native Pottsville sandstone was available to compliment the reinforced concrete Wright had in mind for the cantilevered floors. With these materials he needed glass, framed to give pattern and rhythm to the outlook; finally, the chosen trio of materials called for bright, warm coloring to offset the deep grays of the stone and visually inert concrete.
In a house designed for people to live in, these material components and effects would subserve a whole that, inside and out, must be intimate, informal, yet the main living area must be ample. The spaces, sheltered at the rear, would open toward and flow into the space of the wooded valley. The eye of the indweller would be guided outward by low ceilings toward nature, not upward to a grand interior. Light would come from several sides to provide a balanced ambience, and the house and its setting would be interwoven, vibrant with the changing daylight and the seasons' variations.
Building Fallingwater was a complicated and detailed operation, yet the resulting house seems to belong quietly in its setting. It fits into the hillside and extends out over the falls as if it has always belonged there. Within it, the areas for social life, privacy, and service are clearly separated but conveniently linked. Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece continues to unite human life, architectural form, and nature.
Bear Run, the name given to the stream which today flows beneath Fallingwater, once supported a tiny mountain community typical of small settlements in what we now call the Laurel Highlands region of western Pennsylvania. Once the site of Monongahela Indian settlements, and later the hunting grounds of the Iroquois, the region was explored by George Washington as part of his search for river transportation to the head of the Ohio River. After the French and Indian War, people of varied European origins began to settle along the rivers and trails of the mountain district, drawn by timber and dense stone (both could be sold and transported), by game and fish, water for milling, clay for pots and bricks, and warm pelts. Subsistence farming began despite poor soil.
By mid-19th century technology changed this pattern of life. Coal mining, coke ovens, and railroads were dominant factors; logging now supplied railway ties and mine posts. The best trees and coal were used up and local families sought alternative means of livelihood. Where Bear Run meets the Youghiogheny River a small community grew and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad stopped there twice a day. A general store stood near the station, ice was made upstream and floated down to the river for sale. A sawmill and a tram road assured logs and lumber, there was a smithy and a slaughterhouse, all located and occasionally relocated along Bear Run. Nearby were clay and coal mines and charcoal hearths.
At nearby Ohiopyle along the Youghiogheny River, a summer resort drew visitors from far and near, all looking for a chance to get back to nature in a beautiful mountainous setting. Out of that traffic arose the interest of a Masonic group in the area, and in 1890 a Masonic Country Club became established up Bear Run beyond the station stop community. The Masons naturally built their clubhouse and some family cottages along the streamside road, and they bought more land five years later.
Ten years later the property had to be sold, passing through various hands until in 1909 it was bought by another Masonic group who built a large clubhouse and more cottages farther from the stream to the east. The little community at the Youghiogheny thinned out, and a school and church were built along the country road which became route 381. Automobiles were eroding the importance of the railways. By 1913 the State of Pennsylvania enacted a highway program, and thanks to determined efforts by local taxpayers, the section of road that crosses Bear Run was finally paved in 1930. That inaugurated beneficial changes in the life of the district.
CHRONOLOGY OF CONSTRUCTION
||Wright's First Site Visit
The visit to the waterfall in the woods stays with me and a domicile has taken vague shape in my mind to the music of the stream. When contours come you will see it. Meantime, to you my affection.
- Frank Lloyd Wright to Edgar J. Kaufmann
||Kaufmann sends fee schedule to Wright
we should have in mind that the total cost of construction plus the furnishings should be between $20,000 and $30,000. I would prefer if you would start making the layout keeping in mind the $20,000 figure because we both agreed that in the process of building and completion there will be some additions which will always creep in to make the cost more than $20,000.
||Wright produces first drawings as Kaufmann drives towards Taliesin from Milwaukee
|Mr Wright was not at all disturbed by the fact that not one line had been drawn. As was normal, he asked me to bring him the topographical map of Bear Run, to his draughting table in the sloping- roofed studio at Taliesin
I stood by, on his right side, keeping his colored pencils sharpened. Every line he drew, vertically and especially horizontally, I watched with complete fascination. ..Mr. Kaufmann arrived and Mr. Wright greeted him in his wondrously warm manner. In the studio, Mr. Wright explained the sketches to his client. Mr. Kaufmann, a very intelligent but practical gentleman, merely said
"I thought you would place the house near the waterfall, not over it." Mr. Wright said quietly, "E.J., I want you to live with the waterfall, not just to look at it, but for it to become an integral part of your lives." And it did just that.
||Quarrying begins at Bear Run
|There were maybe two or three layers of stone suitable for the house. To cut the stone you first made a tracemark in the top of the stone with a chisel
This created a weakness in the stone. Then you made holes in the stone along the tracemark about 8-10 inches apart just big enough to allow you to put in soft wedges. Once the wedges were all set up in a row, youd tap them gently until you reached the layer underneath and the stone would then be cut and taken out. We did it all by hand. Wed load it up on the back of Les Sanders old truck and take it down to the construction area. The Kaufmanns also brought an old delivery truck down from Pittsburgh. We also used horses and sleds.
- Earl Friend, construction worker, later the Kaufmanns groundskeeper, and retired maintenance director of Fallingwater
||Sample wall is built, foundation lines are staked, Wright makes second site visit, new bridge is begun
|The mason has the old piers down (from the original bridge over Bear Run) and is starting the new masonry work tomorrow - so lets all drink a toast to the new house.
||Wright visits site with Bob Mosher and establishes elevation of first floor
|Selected site clearing begins Masonry work begins on retaining walls Stone piers built.
Tuesday [June 9] the great tree came crashing down and the sunlight poured in to dry things up considerably. We took it down in three pieces and the engineering required to land it in the only space possible without harm was interesting. Seven men and a team seemed superfluous, but all were used. Next, all the hampering brush; then it was surprising to see the sense of increased space. From the bridge the site looks tremendous and consequently quite thrilling
||Builder Walter Hall arrives
Concrete bolsters poured
Masonry work on basement and first floor walls continues
|During a period of nearly forty years of active building experience (I am now 57), it has been my lot to build many small and medium sized houses; most of which should have been remodeled the day they were finished due in part at least to my inability to make untractable clients see the truth in matters of design. After all these years it certainly would be a pleasure to work on a house where this obstacle to success would be removed
- Walter Hall to Frank Lloyd Wright
||First floor cantilever is poured, additional steel inserted without Wrights approval
|My dear E.J.: If you are paying to have the concrete engineering done down there there is no use whatever in our doing it here. I am willing you should take it over but I am not willing to be insulted
.I dont know what kind of architect you are familiar with but it apparently isnt the kind I think I am. You seem not to know how to treat a decent one. I have put so much more into this house than you or any other client has a right to expect that if I havent your confidence to hell with the whole thing. Sincerely yours, Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect. August 27, 1936
Dear Mr. Wright: If you have been paid to do the concrete engineering up there there is no use whatever of our doing it down here. I am not willing to take it over as you suggest nor am I willing to be insulted
.I dont know what kind of clients you are familiar with but apparently they are not the kind I think I am. You seem not to know how to treat a decent one. I have put so much confidence and enthusiasm behind this whole project in my limited way, to help the fulfillment of your efforts that if I do not have your confidence in the matter to hell with the whole thing. Sincerely yours, Edgar J. Kaufmann.
P.S. Now dont you think that we should stop writing letters and that you owe it to the situation to come to Pittsburgh and clear it up by getting the facts? August 28, 1936
||Hall works on living room and chimney mass
|I am thoroughly enjoying the work since I have been more self reliant, and as the work progresses, and the beauty of the living room develops, it gives me the greatest thrill of my life, and to resort to the vernacular, "It is a shame to take the money" for I am fully recompensed in the satisfaction of accomplishment.
||Second floor poured, except for west bedroom terrace
Edgar Tafel arrives on job
Cracks appear on second floor parapets
Roof poured over guest bedroom terrace
|During my time, we framed the ceiling above the mater bedrooms, and then the roof above that. I remember the cement-mixer a single-motored job, where every bit of sand, cement, and gravel was shoveled into it. When mixed, it would be lowered into a wheelbarrow and hand-pushed to the location and "dumped" into the forms
into the parapets it had to be shoveled by hand. When the concrete was set, the forms were stripped and work started right away to "smooth" down the places where the form joints were, and a thin mix of cement was troweled on. Thats why theres so much trouble with the parapets the round tops were always crooked, and needed work. But at the end it looked all so "modern" a material, as if it all came out of a machine!
- Edgar Tafel, apprentice
||Masonry work for third floor begins
West bedroom terrace poured
|Deer season started exactly when we were to pour the second-floor roof slab, and nobody appeared on the site until each one got his deer. That delayed things several days only. Mr. Wright wanted me back, and E.J. wanted me to stay on the job. I was happy to leave. It was cold (and) a lonesome place, with nobody around after working hours.
- Edgar Tafel, apprentice
||Third floor and third floor roof poured
Chimney mass completed
Masonry work largely completed
|Mr. Kaufmann was out Sunday (December 20) and found a new fracture in the south parapet wall over center bolster beam. This is another proof that the southeast corner has gone down. I had seen the crack before but failed to show it to Mr. Kaufmann. He has taken this very calm considering the seriousness of it
I am dodging the facts to the workmen and outsiders until you can offer some solutions. Mr. Kaufmann tells me not to worry, but as all I am getting out of this house is the happiness of building a Wright house, any failures hurt me to that extent.
||Wall inserted under west bedroom terrace; Wright orders it removed
Roofs finished with asphalt and gravel
Three-story window installed
|I suppose there is nothing in your experience by which you might measure the disappointment and chagrin which you have handed me. I have put my best inspiration and effort into creating something rare and beautiful for you, whom I respect and have conceived affection for, only to find that so far as you could add ruin to my work and reputation you did so behind my back when I was helpless, with no idea, apparently, that you were so doing
.Any pleasure I might take in having done something noble and fine for you is outraged by any outside interference with my effort on your behalf, no matter how well meant the interference may be
-Frank Lloyd Wright in a letter to Edgar Kaufmann
||Floors insulated with redwood
Work begins on flagstone floors
Bob Mosher returns to site
|In spite of having had a very pleasant and restful holiday, my thoughts have been daily, almost hourly, with the work in Bear Run, which has become part of me and a part of my life, and one hates to be separated until the work has been completed to everyones satisfaction
Do not forget in drawing the details for furniture and woodwork that this is not a town house but a mountain lodge and should have that feeling in its furnishings
||Work continues on floors
Metal shelves and kettle installed and painted
|The living-room floor was completed the night before the Kaufmanns arrived and the next morning they came in stomping off the heavy snow, surprised and pleased with the results. We are still quarrying; that has been a drawback, as the supply has had a hard time keeping up with the demand. We have replaced a number of spots done at the beginning in order to improve the whole. The stone has been thin and warpish, there are places I am not satisfied with, and I have taxed the stonelayers patience to a high degree in making them replace, recut, and choose their stones. They are trained now but some have quit because of their lack of patience.
||Hatch and stairs to stream installed; the house is finally closed-in
|In discussing matters with our client it is well to have in mind the motif of the building that is to say, the reason why it is as it is where it is. We got down into that glen to associate directly with the stream and planned the house for that association. Hence the steps from living room to stream.
||Bathrooms and wardrobes detailed by Edgar Kaufmann, jr.
Liliane Kaufmann selects interior details with Wrights guidance
|My Dear Mrs. Kaufmann: The samples duly arrived and indicate magnificent material the red color too heavy but the grey and white good. Nevertheless have the feeling that something less strident in pattern, (in fact no pattern at all), some coarse texture of the weaving blue or yellow or warm grey with a bright thread woven into it, would be more in our thesis "the nature of materials" and better for the house itself looking at the ensemble. Because the environment is so rich and lively the detail of the furnishings can be merely tributary
.the furniture units and pillows should run the gamut of color - in variety - from mercury red to cream or tan color, blue-green, yellow in between. But I am afraid of more pattern as we have already put so much design into the thing.
||Plunge pool at stream is built
Most of the furnishings installed
| This is Mr. Kaufmanns sentiment about the function that water will play in relation to the house: that over half of the time in the summer months that are spent here swimming, bathing, and sunning are rigidly adhered to, and that their functions are indispensable to the life of the house
- Bob Mosher to Frank Lloyd Wright
||Family begins using house
|Dear Mr. And Mrs. Wright, it is really difficult to tell you how much pleasure you gave all three of us, when you sent us that beautiful print for Christmas. It is propped on the desk in front of me as I write this and I find myself continually looking up from my paper to enjoy it
.Thank you both a thousand times for sending it and for thinking of us. We have had the two happiest weekends of our lives in the house, the one over Christmas and this one. There are large balsam branches laid along the metal shelves around the living room and twined in the bars of the balustrade going up the staircase - you cant imagine how lovely it looks. We have had rather large house parties both weekends and it is a continual delight to see how beautifully the house adapts itself to large and rather scattered groups of people. I do hope you will very soon find it possible to spend a few days here with us, especially as Mrs. Wright has never seen the house at all, or heard the sound of the rushing water
We all three wish you the happiest of new years and are more than grateful for the joy you have given us.
||Fallingwater in Time, Architectural Forum, at MOMA
Edgar Kaufmann asks Wright to design a servants wing and guest house
|Dear Mr. Wright - Business took me to New York the opening day of the Museum of Modern Art show, and I thought youd like to hear a little of it
Without a formal opening or any but the slightest advance press notes, the crowd was steady and good. I found myself explaining away the misconceptions of journalists
The total effect is strong and pleasant, I think youd find it decent, tho not in your manner; and much of the public, warmed up by the publicity in periodicals, will give it some study.
||Wright sends first versions of servants wing/guest house drawings
|We have been studying the plans for the extension at "Fallingwater" and we are very enthusiastic about them excepting that when discussing the matter further with Mrs. Kaufmann I find she feels it will be too great a burden to put such a large addition on the present house. She is very anxious to keep it simple and with the least amount of care
||Kaufmann asks Walter Hall to begin construction
Excavating and quarrying begin
|We are all thrilled that we are building again. It will help to fill up the first six months of 1939 so details are important. Please dont let us down - get to work!
- Edgar Kaufmann to Frank Lloyd Wright
||Masonry work begins
|There had been three or four stone masons who worked on the house. The Kaufmanns let them go and used local boys in the construction of the guest house because the local boys would do anything you told them to
Most of us were unskilled laborers. The Kaufmanns brought their plumber, carpenter, and electrician from Pittsburgh, but most of the work was done by locals and we didnt have any skills. There wasnt a real need for skilled labor.
||Steel installed in guest house
|I have had a wonderful ten-day period of work: I have 30 men; half of the steel in first-floor guest part. I have forms up for garage roof, about 2/3 of the stone work completed. I have the job well organized and it is running smoothly. Plenty of willing help, with low wages. General labor: farmers and neighbors. I have the stone work up with cheap farmer masons, and I am quite happy over it, if it will only please you.
- Walter Hall to Frank Lloyd Wright
||Servants wing/guest house and canopy largely completed
Plumbing and wiring work completed
Wright makes site visit
|Kaufmann asks Wright
that you will arrange to visit with us at least twice a year for a day and night so that we can have the benefit of your judgment and advice to keep the interior arrangement in harmony with your architectural creation
I always feel that I am a better man after having spent hours with you and regret that our paths cross so seldom.
The Preservation of Fallingwater began with the Kaufmann family, who continually monitored the cracks in the master terrace parapets as well as the movement of the cantilevers, a practice continued by Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Up until the 1980s, the majority of the preservation projects undertaken first by the family and then Western Pennsylvania Conservancy concerned the concrete surfaces: patching and repainting. Beginning with the 1981 installation of new roofs, recent preservation and conservation projects have focused on areas such as the structural system, the replacement of the original glass with ultraviolet-filtering glass, and the conservation of all of the woodwork in Fallingwater.
In 1994, our continued concerns about the structural integrity of the house led us to engage the engineering firm, to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the master terrace cantilever using non-destructive testing methods. The results of the study indicated that the master terrace could not function as an independent cantilever, and that it was transferring its load to the living room level. Furthermore, the study predicted the ultimate failure of the living room cantilevers if no remedial action was taken. The study recommended that the structure be repaired. In order to stop the deflections and provide a margin of safety, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy installed temporary shoring in 1997. A 1999 peer review approved the proposed plan for the structural repair, which will strengthen the living room using post-tensioning, and waterproofing the building.
A primary goal of Western Pennsylvania Conservancys preservation efforts at Fallingwater is to maintain Frank Lloyd Wrights designed relationship of the house with the surrounding natural landscape. The most defining features of this relationship are the cantilevers and the pristine, smooth concrete finishes indicative of the Modernist Style. The results of Wrights innovative use of technology, however, can sometimes make traditional repair methods at Fallingwater difficult. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy makes every effort to maintain the structural integrity of the cantilevers and their relationship to the site as well as retain the smooth appearance of the concrete surfaces. In addition, the WPC makes every effort to make all conservation of the building as noninvasive as possible. No effort shall be made to revise or improve upon the original design for aesthetic purposes. However, changes to original building systems can be made if such changes contribute significantly to the long-term preservation of the building.
||Frank Lloyd Wright asked the DuPont Company of Wilmington to produce the red paint for the steel sash windows and doors.
1,340 pounds of Cemelith paint in the color of light ocher were ordered from Super Concrete Emulsion Ltd. of Los Angeles in August.
||The exterior of the house was painted twice more with Cemelith paint.
||The Kaufmann family installed small vents on every terrace to increase air circulation in the coffers below.
||A sitting room was added off the kitchen. Wright did not visit Fallingwater to design the sitting room, rather it was built from plans and drawings he made.
||The exterior of the house was painted with a PPG Industries oil-based paint.
||A flash flood in August caused Bear Run to rise over the parapet walls. Water seeped in from the terraces and hillside to flood the house. The stairs to the stream were damaged and consequently reconstructed after the flood to include steel T-supports, which increased their strength and stability.
||The exterior of the house was painted with Mural-Tone Pec-Tan #497, manufactured by Muralco Company, Bayonne, New Jersey.
||The Frank Lloyd Wright built-in couches and freestanding hassocks and zabutons (the low foam rubber floor cushions with walnut frames around them) were recovered with a Jack Lenor Larsen fabric chosen by Edgar Kaufmann, jr.
The interior and exterior of Fallingwater were patched and painted with an OBrien paint, manufactured by the Masterwork Paint Company.
New precast, pre-stressed, concrete slabs for the bridge floor were installed under the direction of Chester Engineers.
||per the direction of Edgar Kaufmann, jr., all of the screens in the house were removed, in keeping with Frank Lloyd Wrights original intention. Due to the annoyance from insects, the screens were put back in shortly after they were removed.
||The OBrien paint did not adhere properly to the exterior substrate. The following paints were, therefore, tested: Sherwin-Williams, Dutch Boy, Martin-Senour, PPG, Pratt Lambert, Thoroseal, Watson-Standard, Tnemec, and OBrien. The paint used was Tneme-Crete (modified epoxy), manufactured by the Tnemec Company of Kansas City, Missouri.
||The carport was converted into a membership theater.
The Kaufmann greenhouse and swimming pool were removed. The greenhouse was reinstalled at the I.N. Hagan House, now called Kentuck Knob.
||Edgar Kaufmann, jr. changed the red color of the steel sash windows and doors from the Venetian red to a more typical Wright Cherokee red.
||The exterior of the house was painted with Thoroseal, a cement based paint.
||Under the direction of L.D. Astorino Associates, Pittsburgh, new roofs were installed over the main house and guest house. They were composed of 4 plies of fiberglass felts with hot asphalt in between them.
||The east terrace trellis beams were partially knocked down during a storm when a tree branch collapsed on them. They were rebuilt using post-tensioned thread bars under the direction of Taliesin Associates Architects.
||All of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed built-in and freestanding furniture was conserved by Thom Gentle of Intermuseum Conservation Laboratory, Oberlin, Ohio. This work was funded in part by the following grants: National Endowment of the Arts, J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
||Under the direction of L.D. Astorino Associates, Pittsburgh, the roofs were replaced with a single-ply of 60 mil Goodyear Versigard EPDM rubberized membrane. In addition, the living room, Edgar Kaufmann, Sr., master bedroom, and third floor terraces were lifted and reassembled using a single-ply of 60 mil Goodyear Versigard EPDM rubberized membrane concealed under the flagstones. The membrane was used in conjunction with lead flashing.
The original single pane glass in the house was replaced with Saflex, a UV filtered glass manufactured by the Monsanto Company and Pittsburgh Plate Glass. It was funded, in part, by grants from the Institute of Museum Services and Pittsburgh Plate Glass.
||The kitchen floor was replaced with asphalt tiles manufactured by Azrock Industries of Texas. Azrock specially made 12-inch x 12-inch tiles to match the original.
||Thom Gentle, Consultants, Massachusetts, performed necessary wood and object conservation in situ each winter at Fallingwater.
||Wank Adams Slavin Associates, New York, was hired with a grant from the Institute of Museum Services to investigate concrete and masonry problems. After determining the problem, they tested and evaluated numerous patching techniques.
||The stone chimney tops were dismantled and through- the-wall lead flashing was installed under the direction of L.D. Astorino Associates, Pittsburgh.
Weston Geophysical Corporation and Michael Baker Corporation performed a geophysical study and found that the bedrock foundation conditions near the stream above the waterfall to be sound.
The main house was electrically rewired.
Michael Baker Corporation, Pittsburgh, donated services to create sitemaps and provided an assessment of the houses stability.
||The exterior stonewalls of the main house were cleaned under the direction of Wank Adams Slavin Associates, New York.
||The original paint colors on Fallingwater were analyzed by Frank Welsh, in association with Quinn Evans Architects of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
||Under the direction of Wank Adams Slavin Associates, New York, the southwest corner of the master bedroom and Edgar Kaufmann, Sr.s terrace were rebuilt.
||The Frank Lloyd Wright built-in couches and freestanding hassocks and zabutons were recovered with a Jack Lenor Larsen fabric specially made to match the 1969 fabric chosen by Edgar Kaufmann, jr.
||The main house chimney mass was repointed under the direction of Wank Adams Slavin Associates, New York.
||The steel hatch over the stairs to the stream was restored by John Seekircher, a steel window restorer located in New York.
||Western Pennsylvania Conservancy was awarded a Keystone Historic Preservation grant to chemically strip, patch and paint the exterior of the house. The coating system was developed specifically for Fallingwater by Wank Adams Slavin Associates, New York, and Norman Weiss. The 13-15 layers of paint were first removed with a Dupont Chemical product called Peel Away 1. After the surface has been sufficiently rinsed of the Peel Away 1 and dried, a water repellent is applied. The water repellent is called SL100, manufactured by ProSoCo, Kansas City, and works as a primer for their Breathable Masonry Coating 90. The coating was applied as per manufacturer recommendations. The coating system is designed to allow moisture vapor to escape, while preventing liquid water from entering from the outside. The paint also contains a mild biocide that resists mildew and algae growth.
||The swimming pool was painted with an Amsterdam Color Guide Latex Pool Paint, manufactured by Amsterdam Colorworks, Inc., Bronx New York. The paint failed completely after 6 months.
||Robert Silman Associates, New York, completed the report Analysis of the Master Bedroom Terrace.
||Temporary shoring was installed underneath the living room cantilevers under the direction of Robert Silman Associates.
Andropogon, Landscape Architects of Philadelphia completed an Interpretive Management Plan for the Landscape of Fallingwater.
||Under the direction of Wank Adams Slavin Associates, New York, the pottery terrace was re-waterproofed using an IRMA system, which stands for inverted roofing membrane assembly system. The system is based on Bituthene 4000, manufactured by W.R. Grace. Deck Prep (a low viscosity, two-component asphalt-modified urethane coating) is applied over the Hardibacker. Two plies of Bituthene 4000 were then installed over the deck prep, the edges were sealed with Bituthene Mastic, a rubberized asphalt-based mastic. Copper flashing was seated in a reglet in the concrete parapet. A drainage mat was then installed. The mat acts both as a protection board for the membrane and the means to direct moisture towards the new drains. The drains are J.R. Smith drains with perforated collars to collect subsurface water. The flagstones were then laid in sand and a cement mortar was placed between the stones.
Robert Silman Associates, New York, completed the report Analysis of Mr. Kaufmanns Terrace.
||The swimming pool was painted with an Olympic Paralon 2 Chlorinated Rubber manufactured by Kelley Technical Coatings.
||On April 10, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy held a public forum and peer review to examine and assess the proposed plans for the stabilization and restoration of Fallingwater. The review panel for the forum was composed of individuals in engineering, architecture, and academia recognized for their outstanding achievements. The panel unanimously endorsed both proposals from RSA and WASA to stabilize and restore Fallingwater.
Robert Silman Associates completed the report Crack and Tiltmeter monitoring at Fallingwater and Structural Conditions Assessment.
Wank Adams Slavin Associates, New York, completed a Conditions Assessment and a Preservation Master Plan for Fallingwater.
Analysis of the Master Terrace
Over the years all of the cantilevers at Fallingwater have deflected (or sagged) by varying amounts. Though a certain amount of initial deflection is normal after the framework has been removed, the cantilevers stabilize after a short period of time. The living room, master bedroom terrace, and Edgar Kaufmann, Sr.s terrace, however, are continuing to deflect and there is no indication it will stop.
Edgar Kaufmann, Sr., himself, was concerned about the continuing deflection of the house and engaged engineers to make yearly surveys from 1941 to 1955. When Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) was entrusted the site in 1963, they continued to monitor the structure. Further concern about the structural integrity of the house lead WPC in 1994 to engage Robert Silman Associates (RSA) of New York, an engineering firm widely recognized for their preservation work.
Since 1936, there has been much confusion regarding the exact construction details of Fallingwater. In particular there were questions regarding the number, size and arrangement of the reinforcing bars in the concrete work of the house. In addition, new questions had arisen about the strength of the concrete and whether any internal deterioration of the materials had occurred over time. In a National Historic Landmark building such as Fallingwater, questions like these are best answered by using methods that do not destroy or damage any parts of the building. Although all questions could be answered by chipping away sections of the concrete, this is unacceptable because vital original fabric would forever be lost. Therefore, RSA used non-destructive testing methods to provide the answers.
RSAs investigation consisted of four phases: historic research of the original plans, and Wrights instructions to the builder, non-destructive testing, computerized monitoring, and a sophisticated computer analysis of the master terrace. Using impulse radar and ultrasonic pulse testing, they were able to confirm the size and location of the reinforcing steel and found the concrete in generally fair condition. Moreover, the measured deflections of the cantilevers proved to be consistent with those predicted in the computer model developed by RSA. Unfortunately, that computer model also predicted the ultimate failure of the living room cantilevers.
The study also discovered that the master terrace could not function as an independently supported cantilever with its existing reinforcement. It was in fact the design intent, structurally, to transfer the loads of the master terrace down to the living room level through four structural "T" sections encased in the larger window mullions on the south elevation. To further monitor the situation, RSA installed crack meters on two of the most prominent cracks on the parapet of the master terrace and a tilt meters on the wall at the southern end of the living room and master bedroom cantilevers. These instruments take readings every half-hour and indicate whether the cracks are expanding or the cantilevers are tilting further downward.
RSA eventually concluded that the problems found at Fallingwater stem not from oversights in basic geometry or flaws inherent to the structural concept, but were instead mistakes in the design and detailing of the reinforcement. They recommended that the structure be repaired. In the meantime, in order to stop the deflections and provide a margin of safety, WPC installed temporary shoring in April 1997.
On April 10, 1999 a peer review and forum was held to review Robert Silman Associates (RSA) plans to stabilize the cantilevers and Wank Adams Slavin Associates (WASA) waterproofing plans for Fallingwater.
Because of the architectural importance of Fallingwater, and the possible controversy over its repair, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy understood the need to present this information to a qualified panel for review and announce the plans to the public. In his opening remarks, panelist and internationally known conservator Martin Weaver stated, "The Conservancy should be congratulated for adopting this process of peer review on the conservation proposals, and I firmly believe that this should be a standard process for all historic resources of national and international significance."
The panel, composed of individuals recognized for their outstanding achievements in architecture, engineering, academia, and preservation, unanimously endorsed the proposals to strengthen and restore Fallingwater. Panelists were: Randall Biallas, the Chief Historical Architect for the National Park Service; Nick Gianopulos, a structural engineer and founding member of the firm Keast and Hood; Neil Levine, Gleason Professor at Harvard University; John Thorpe, restoration architect in Oak Park, IL; Dr. Bruno Thurlimann, a Swiss structural engineer who specializes in building failures; Martin Weaver, an international specialist in the conservation of historic buildings and sites; and Eric Lloyd Wright, architect and grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Stabilizing and restoring Fallingwater does not diminish the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright and the mastery of Fallingwater. As panelist Randall Biallas so eloquently stated, "The problems at Fallingwater inform us about Mr. Wrights practice at a particular point in time, about the people that he had in his office at a point in time, and about how he was constantly pushing the envelope in terms of design and materials and concept and form
Mr. Wright was doing something dramatically different in terms of residential architecture at Fallingwater."
Proposed Plans to Stabilize the Cantilevers:
RSA proposes a technique called post-tensioning to halt further deflections of the living room and master bedroom cantilevers. No effort will be made during the stabilization to raise the cantilevers back to their intended position. As panelist Dr. Bruno Thurlimann remarked during the forum, "Post-tensioning is the way to go. No one will come up with a better solution." The reinforcement will remain in the floor depth with minimum disturbance to the existing concrete fabric. Panelist Eric Lloyd Wright, grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright, agreed and said, "The most important thing in Frank Lloyd Wright buildings is the space that is inside the building and the space that is outside the building, not what is in the floor."
In order to post-tension Fallingwater, high strength steel cables will be placed along each side of the 3 major north/south concrete beams in the living room. The strands follow a bent path where they start and end at points near the bottom of the existing concrete beams and rise up to the top of the existing beams at the middle. This path locates the strands at the top and middle of the beam where they are most needed for strength. The geometry of the strands placement is carefully calculated to ensure that the large post-tensioning forces will always oppose the inner stresses now present in the beams. The strands are attached to the side of the concrete beams with anchor blocks.
The strands will extend outside the face of the south living room parapet and a post-tensioning jack will be installed. The jack will be used to tension each group of strands on either side of the beam until the required 200,000 pound or 100 ton force is reached, which places 400,000 pounds or 200 tons of tension on each beam. The jack will then be removed and the strands will be cut off inside the parapet. The concrete will be patched, leaving little trace of the work performed. In order to achieve proper transfer of forces from the living room to the master terrace, the concrete joist directly above the four steel "T" mullions will be reinforced by bolting a steel channel to each side.
Architectural Restoration Needs:
The stabilization of the cantilever is clearly a dramatic project, but the restoration of the structure includes many other vital components:
- structural strengthening of Edgar Kaufmann, Sr.s cantilevered terrace with carbon fiber;
- restoration and repair of the corroded, and in some locations inoperable, steel sash that comprises the framing of the windows and doors throughout the building;
- conservation of all interior built-in and free standing Frank Lloyd Wright designed furniture and woodwork;
- restoration of the badly corroded steel supports and spalled concrete treads of the stairs that connect the living room to the stream;
- cleaning and repointing of the exterior stone walls; and
- waterproofing the building.
Another major issue facing Fallingwater is moisture penetration. Lynda Waggoner, vice president of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and director of Fallingwater, said during the forum, "Inside the house, this on-going problem is responsible for warped doors, peeling paint, stains and cracks on the walls. Its a serious problem that rivals our structural challenges in its importance." To remedy that, WASA proposed to replace the current one-ply rubber membrane roof with an IRMA (inverted roofing membrane assembly) roof. The IRMA system employs three plies of modified bitumem that is surmounted by a drainage mat (to guide the sub-surface water), insulation, filter fabric and gravel. The terraces will be waterproofed similarly with three plies of modified bitumem and a drainage mat. Flagstones will then be laid over filter fabric and sand.
Wank Adams Slavin Associates (WASA) were the architects for supervising the project and developed plans to restore the structure. Their ten-year association with the project has been invaluable in determining solutions for moisture penetration, an issue that has plagued Fallingwater since its inception. Principal points of moisture entry are defective or missing waterproofing and flashing elements (at roofs, terraces and skylights and windows) and window frames that are not tight to the structure. Other factors contributing to moisture penetrating the structure are the lack of drip edges at the roof rolls; projecting ledges of stone work on which water ponds; and contact of building elements with bedrock or partially bermed soil.