Fallingwater's World Heritage Inscription
On July 7, 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee inscribed Fallingwater and seven other Frank Lloyd Wright-designed sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List at a meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The inscription, The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, to the UNESCO World Heritage List represents the first modern architecture designations in the United States.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is widely considered to be the greatest American architect of the 20th century. His major works represented in the World Heritage inscription span 54 years of his illustrious career. In addition to Fallingwater, the inscription includes: Unity Temple, Frederick C. Robie House, Taliesin, Hollyhock House, Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House, Taliesin West and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
These eight sites have played a prominent role in the development and evolution of modern architecture during the first half of the 20th century and continuing to the present.
UNESCO considers the international importance of a potential World Heritage Site based on its “Outstanding Universal Value,” which in the Wright series is manifested in three attributes. First, it is an architecture responsive to functional and emotional needs, achieved through geometric abstraction and spatial manipulation. Second, the design of the buildings in this series is fundamentally rooted in nature’s forms and principles. Third, the series represents an architecture conceived to be responsive to the evolving American experience, but which is universal in its appeal.
There are more than 1,000 World Heritage sites around the world, and the group of Wright sites is now among only 24 sites in the U.S. Fallingwater is one of only two Pennsylvania World Heritage sites, joining Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Wright and Fallingwater
Wright’s design of Fallingwater in 1935 was inspired by nature’s forms and principles, where materials, colors and design motifs were all derived from the natural features of the woodland site where it was built. Fallingwater best exemplifies Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture: the harmonious union of art and nature. Owned and operated by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Fallingwater opened to the public as a museum in 1964 and is designated as a National Historic Landmark and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Treasure.
Not only did Wright make his mark on the American landscape, but he also influenced those in his studio and more than 500 Taliesin apprentices. Wright’s work also was published and exhibited widely in the early part of the 20th century and went on to influence world architects, such as the major modernists of Europe. His impact also impressed upon the work of architects in Latin America, Australia and Japan.
World Heritage Nomination Process and Document
The World Heritage nomination effort was spearheaded by Director Emerita of Fallingwater Lynda S. Waggoner who is also a founding board member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, an international organization dedicated to the preservation of all of Wright’s remaining built works and the coordinating entity for the World Heritage nomination.
The Wright serial nomination was in development for nearly 20 years, a coordinated effort between the FLWBC, each of the nominated sites and independent scholars, with a substantial financial commitment realized through subsidies and donations, countless hours donated by staff and volunteers, and the guidance and assistance of the National Park Service. Fallingwater staff also contributed support and expertise in the nomination’s preparation.
The FLWBC will now coordinate the activities of the Frank Lloyd Wright World Heritage Council, chaired by Waggoner, which was established to support the responsible conservation and promotion of the eight World Heritage sites.
To read the complete nomination document, download it from SaveWright.org. To tour Fallingwater, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, book a reservation in advance online or call Visitor Services at 724-329-8501.