Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water House Saved (at Enormous Cost)

I was a FLW fan in the early ’60s. We went to Taliesin West (on the same trip, hung out a bit with Paolo Soleri at his compound in Scottsdale, where he had just built this beautiful underground grotto/studio). Slept on the deck of a burned-down FLW house nearby. Visited the house (in Pasadena?) with imprinted concrete blocks and also got a tour of a home in Marin County by a guy named Berger who built it himself.

So FLW’s engineering sucked. He was an artist!

This was sent in by Ed today. For the thread that started the FLW conversation, see comments on this post: My Little Hut in the Woods

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

4 Responses to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water House Saved (at Enormous Cost)

  1. I really don’t want to start a flame war on Frank Lloyd Wright, because I believe that his buildings are among the most beautiful of the 20th Century. However, I am uneasy with this deeply flawed man who created structurally unsound beauty, then left his unfortunate clients to pick up the costs of fixing the results of his ignorance or arrogance.

    In the 1st Century BC, the Roman architect Vitruvius said that the three requirements of architecture were Firmness, Commodity and Delight; that a building should be structurally sound, should do what it was intended to do and that it should be beautiful. FLW’s buildings excelled in Commodity and Delight, but often failed miserably in Firmness.

    There is no excuse for an architect to create beautiful buildings that are structurally unsound. As the “conductor” of the “orchestra” that creates a building, the architect should know enough to consult other professionals, such as structural engineers, whenever necessary. He/she should not just plow ahead, operating by guesswork and misplaced confidence in areas of uncertainty. An architect who creates a beautiful but leaky building can still receive the highest awards of the profession and be assured of a steady stream of wealthy clients. A civil engineer who creates a beautiful bridge which collapses is finished!

  2. I studied engineering in college, had classes with Hank Pfisterer who was engineer for many of Saarinen’s designs. Saarinen would win a commission with a fancy design and then ask Pfisterer “how are we ever going to build this?” Take a look at the Ingall’s hockey rink at Yale. Examine the steel joints holding up the corners of the thin shell concrete Kresge auditorium at MIT.
    I remember when they were planning the construction of the big parking garage in New Haven, and they wanted to pour all the concrete in one big pour, so that there would be fewer seams. Pfisterer concluded that all the concrete trucks in the state of Connecticut were not enough to do the job.

  3. have read that FLW never did complete a degree, (started in engineering…) let alone an architecture degree. And, that after a time, he apprenticed as a goffer in an architecture firm. Then believing himself more talented and skilled than all, set out to conquer the architecture of the time/future. His lack of solid education in the field, and solid training in the field would go some ways to explaining his non understanding of “structural” issues. On the other hand, many “regular” folks, many carpenters, many non builders do have a good sense of when a roof might fall down, or a building might slide over a cliff…..

    Could not find a lot definite on his education and training…wiki has a bit
    ” Madison High School; left (many say without graduating )1885. In 1886, he was admitted to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. took classes part-time for two semesters, and worked with Allan D. Conover, a professor of civil engineering. Wright left the school without taking a degree.”

    From Architecural Digest (really, he actually was not qualified, so it is no surprise) “Wright was vehemently against the American Institute of Architects (AIA). — Wright was famous for his disdain for other architects, and refused to join the AIA”


    Yupprs, I agree with Peter

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