Echoes of Falling Water in Wright’s Unbuilt Projects

by Hector Fernando Burga

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water (1935) is among the most renowned architectural icons of the 20th century. In this post I consider renderings of three unbuilt projects that came after Falling Water, revealing a lineage of design elements that reappear in different forms and contexts.

In his rendering for the Morris House (1945), Wright continues to link built forms with their natural environments through a careful consideration of topography. In the rendering above, the building's location defines its dynamic composition. Wright introduces curved windows to provide expanded waterfront views and allows local vegetation to adorn the roofs and balconies. Like Falling Water, the building is a stylized extension of the surrounding landscape.

Falling Water is clearly visible in the rendering of Cottage Studio for Ayn Rand (1946). The slate base, vertical circulation shaft and cantilevered slabs are revisited almost dogmatically. However, unlike the elegant balance of projecting slabs in Falling Water, these slabs thrust boldly from their wooded terrain toward a single point on the horizon. Rand's worldview seems unmistakably reflected in the design.

In Point View Residences (1952), characteristics of Falling Water appear in a large apartment building. Wright uses rhythm, hierarchy and balance to prevent the scale from overwhelming. Intermediate floor slabs with decorative cladding give life to the facade. Terraces and balconies extend in a welcoming gesture from the building's hillside perch. A simple base lifts the apartments up to crown the terrain.

In these renderings Wright creatively reformats elements of Falling Water, showing that the building is more than an independent flash of inspiration. It is also one of many layers in the development of a design sensibility that reverberated in new settings, in response to new challenges.

Credits: Renderings from Treasures of Taliesen: Seventy-Seven Unbuilt Designs.

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  1. interesting take on this. a less poetic view might call it a rehash of old ideas. but i think you're right to see it differently. similar ideas do echo in different contexts, even among different architects. they reformulate and grow and build on each other. thank you for this reminder.

  2. Yes, usually architectural writing looks at what influenced a signature work instead of how that work reappears in later designs, maybe because the influence is obvious and doesn't show the architect's serious attempt to innovate in a new setting. And it's hard to tell from a rendering how well a building actually fits with its surroundings. But I like your approach and the way you write eloquently about Wright's work over time.


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