WORLD HERITAGE PRESERVED

Weather is omnipresent and buildings must be left out in the rain.
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1955

Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater for the Kaufmann family as a living structure – one so interposed with nature that the outside literally becomes part of the inside. Edgar Kaufmann, jr. once wrote: “In Fallingwater Wright captured the perfect essence of our desire to live with nature, to dwell in a forested place and be at home in the natural world.”

However, the effects of time and weather on the materials that meld the house to its landscape have caused major building systems to reach the end of their useful lives. To address these preservation needs and uphold our commitment to protect Fallingwater as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is preparing for a major preservation initiative.

The first phase of this multi-year effort will enable us to undertake the preservation of Fallingwater’s major building systems, which total $3 million. We have raised nearly $2.7 million from individual and foundation gifts as well as a grant from Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, and expect work to begin in 2022.

Your support will allow us to raise the remaining funds needed to undertake preservation of the following building systems

Stone Walls

Fallingwater’s stone walls were constructed by hand using Pottsville sandstone quarried from the site and laid in irregular patterns to mimic the natural formations found in the landscape. Seasonal expansion and contraction created by fluctuations in temperature cause hairline cracking in the mortar joints, allowing water to find its way inside the walls.

Flat Roofs

Wright used strong horizontals in Fallingwater’s design; however, nature has taken its toll and all roofing and roof roll waterproofing membranes need to be replaced. Priority areas include: Edgar Kaufmann jr.’s roof, the pottery terrace and master bedroom roof, the guest house roof and the servants’ quarters roof.

Terraces

Fallingwater’s terraces carry the indoors to the outdoors; however, cracking mortar joints in the stonework and failures in the underlying waterproofing membranes let water seep inside.

Steel Frames

Wright relied on glass to integrate the house with nature. Steel frames were used to secure the glass in place, and have corroded in the humid environment. Repairs to the steel require rust remediation, steel replacement and installation of new sealants.

Concrete

Wright viewed reinforced concrete as a “plastic” material, one with limitless potential that could take any form. When constructed, Fallingwater was Wright’s most expansive use of reinforced concrete in a residential application, and he used the material to stretch conventional notions of building and living. Because Wright pushed the limits, Fallingwater’s reinforced concrete presents many preservation challenges today.

Help Fallingwater Live On

Fallingwater is all of ours to conserve, to keep open as a public treasure, and to celebrate as one of the world’s greatest examples of art in nature, and nature made even more inspiring through art.

For more information about this effort, contact Julie Holmes, director of development, at 412-586-2312 or jholmes@paconserve.org.