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Bringing The Outside In – How Open Can An Open Floor Plan Be?

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Fallingwater/Kaufmann Home/Frank Lloyd Wright

For some time the architectural profession has endeavored to merge the best in nature with the best in design, pushing to create open, integrated environments celebrating the natural world – and which people would be happy to make their home.

Of course Frank Lloyd Wrights Fallingwater came immediately to mind as it is at the literal headwaters of this school of thought. Built in 1935, the home is Wright’s crowning achievement and a wondrous expression of organic architecture, topping the American Institute of Architects list of “best all-time work of American architecture.”

The Pittsburgh couple who owned the land had a reputation for a distinctive sense of style and taste – and a love of the land. Wright, determined to build over the stream that cut the property, remarked that rather than having the family merely able to look over its waterfalls, that rather Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann should “live with the waterfall…as an integral part of (their) lives.”

Of course, that took some effort, with Wright anchoring his creation to the natural rock formations with a series of reinforced concrete supports, the home’s cantilevered sandstone terraces lovingly constructed to blend in with the rock falls while appearing to hover above the fall’s pools below.

Fallingwater currently serves as a museum, with millions of student architects, fans of Wright and simple people who appreciate the concept of life meshed with a local landscape, coming to visit. Of it, architectural writer and critic Paul Goldberger wrote: “My whole life is dealing with architecture and words, and at the end of the day, there is something that I can’t entirely say when it comes to what Fallingwater feels like.”

Not everyone has the land or resources for their own personal hideaway, millions of us settling for life in boxes with manicured quadrants of lawn and concrete. Some, however, are embracing the new generation of floor-to-ceiling windows and sill-less doors favored by the school of thought, and builders are reporting requests for homes illuminated by natural light and featuring interior spaces more closely resembling a rain forest than sprawling suburban tract.

As with everything, the “outdoor-in” approach may not be for everyone, but we’d be interested in finding out. We’d like to know if you’ve already incorporated a similar design into your home, plan to, or believe that plants and rocks belong outside and not in your living room.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I would LOVE to have a waterfall in our home! I could easily live next door to Niagara Falls. Waterfalls are very soothing. A friend of mine had a tree growing in his living room (enclosed by glass). He told me I was one of the few people who really appreciated it…

  2. We have visited twice during pilgrimmages back to see relatives and it is gorgeous. I could absolutely live this way but there aren’t a lot of sites left like this anymore. So beautiful.

  3. No way Fallingwater would ever pass environmental review or get a permit today. No way.

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