Falling Water Falling Water photo by Robert P. Ruschak, courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Sounds of silence

Now is the time to plan for a trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater masterpiece

By Jennifer Hadley 10/14/2009

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For just $1,195 per participant, which includes continental breakfast, dinner, a picnic lunch and possibly an actual sighting of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ghost with hat and dapper shoes, you can spend a few hours at Fallingwater, built partly over a waterfall in the lush Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains and considered by many to be Wright’s most beautiful, ambitious and perfectly articulated architectural creation.

There has been a lot of enthusiasm about this program that the Fallingwater Education Department designed, which allows lifelong learners and architectural enthusiasts to participate in a seminar-format visit to Fallingwater over two evenings and one full day, during which time participants will have two opportunities for independent exploration of the house.

As part of the program, called Insight Onsite, visitors will gain “a new perspective on architecture and its relationship to the natural world,” according to Clinton Piper, of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Fallingwater office.

More accurately, Fallingwater — described by Smithsonian magazine as one of the 28 places in the country “to visit … before it’s too late” — is actually called the Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr. House, designed for Kaufman, a Pittsburgh businessman, and his family, who lived there between 1935 and 1939. His son briefly studied architecture under Wright, who designed the home in 1934, but never lived there.

Fallingwater was the Kaufmann family’s weekend home until 1963, when Kaufmann’s son donated the property to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Since 1964, when it opened as a museum, more than five million people have visited the house, which sees more than 120,000 visitors each year.

“Fallingwater is a great blessing — one of the great blessings to be experienced here on Earth. I think nothing yet ever equaled the coordination, sympathetic expression of the great principle of repose where forest and stream and rock and all the elements of structure are combined so quietly that really you listen not to any noise whatsoever, although the music of the stream is there,” Wright once said. “But you listen to Fallingwater the way you listen to the quiet of the country.”

“The program is a shorter, more distilled version of our widely acclaimed weeklong teacher’s residency program, which also combines quiet exploration, group inquiry exercises and lively mealtime conversations,” writes Piper.

The Insight Onsite experience will begin with a silent walk at around dusk, from the on-site lodging to Fallingwater, through the rich, dappled Pennsylvania countryside. A quiet exploration of the house will be followed by a bonfire, conversation and cookout.

Guests will awake to continental breakfast, a guided Fallingwater landscape exploration, then lunch and discussion on one of Fallingwater’s terraces (weather permitting).

On the last day of the program, guests will receive a guided tour of the house and lunch at the Fallingwater café.
Because space is limited, and respect for both individual exploration and maintenance of house and grounds is of foremost importance, the Insight Onsite programs will be open to only eight individuals per session.

The dates are: May 11-13; June 12-14; and Sept. 7-9. For more information on Fallingwater, visit fallingwater.org. 

Contact Joanna Dehn Beresford at truewrite@yahoo.com.

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