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Posted July 9, 2001
This book is one of the best I have seen for describing in detail the challenges of creating one of America's architectural landmarks. Anyone who reads this book will be reminded of Thomas Edison's comment about genius being 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. Fallingwater came as a commission after one of the longest dry spells of Frank Lloyd Wright's career. Despite having no work to do, no money, and few prospects, Mr. Wright dawdled with the project while trying to sell his client, Edgar Kaufmann, as many other projects as possible. Contemporary accounts suggest that Wright only began sketching something on paper when Mr. Kaufmann was about to arrive at Taliesin in Wisconsin, where Wright did his work. Mr. Kaufman was not an easy client. He was the head of a major department store, and was used to getting his own way. Client and architect often clashed, with bent feelings on both sides. Independent 'experts' got involved who also added to the controversy, mistakes, and misunderstandings. Mr. Kaufmann deserves credit, though, for sticking with Wright as the costs soared way above the original budget for this most unique house. Interestingly, the two were brought together by Mr. Kaufmann's son who had come to study with Wright in Taliesin. The book contains a brief introduction by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. who ultimately gave the home to a local nature conservancy. Even without the challenges of the human relationships, Fallingwater was a most ambitious commission. In a remote part of the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania, Fallingwater is sited on top of a waterfall. The potential for the water to undermine the house is enormous. Mr. Wright also wanted to keep as many of the original rocks and trees as possible. The site survey was often wrong, and the designs had to be adjusted to reflect the reality. The design also provided other unusual problems, and the first cantilever was built incorrectly due to changes made under Mr. Kaufmann's direction. The book contains a wealth of maps, letters, summaries of interviews with those who worked on the project, drawings, plans, and photographs of the work in progress in black and white. This detail brings the challenges to life in a very real way. The fascinating part of this book to me is that Fallingwater's final effects are the opposite of its creation. The home seems to float above the water, like a mirage. It seems to exude tranquility and peace. Yet, its every stage of movement toward becoming a reality was like a Sumo wrestling match with enormous heavyweight egos and ideas colliding at high speed and with little regard for the impact on the other fellow. As much as I love Fallingwater, I love understanding more about how it was created even more. Anyone who wants to leave a mark of greatness behind should read this book. After you finish thinking through the implications of Mr. Wright's vision and ways of implementing it, I suggest that you think about your own personal life and work. Where are you lacking in vision? Where are you lacking in the processes to implement worthwhile visions? Turn your dreams into beautiful realities . . . for everyone! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution
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Posted January 9, 2010
I have recently gone to my local library and checked out this book on one of the famous houses of America, Fallingwater, by arguably the most well-known author of the country, Frank Lloyd Wright.
When I went to the library, I already knew that I wanted a book on Frank Lloyd Wright, but there were plenty to choose from. I looked through the book, and the aspects that made me choose it were, one, the shorter length of the book and two, the use of pictures throughout. Typically, one would expect the normal shots of the house from the river and maybe a few highlighting the major architectural aspects of the house. But this book is different. It has exactly 100 photographs of the house or some aspect relating to it. There are the normal river shots, but there are also photos of blueprints of the design, hand-drawn sketches, shots of construction and many interior and exterior shots of the house. The shots of the construction points to the idea that the author probably knows what he is talking about, if he has done enough research to have obtained the photos. The photos make up a big portion of the book, as most of the text refers to the them, and is all-encompassing, from dining room chairs to fireplaces to arial shots to the river than runs though the house from before the house was built.
Though the photos were fantastic, the more informative part of the book was the text, which followes the story of the house from pre-planning all of the way though to the additions made later.
The book also discusses the relationship between the architect, Wright, and the owner, Kaufmann, which is known to be abnormal.
Another interesting part of the book is the introduction, which is written by Edgar Kaufmann Jr., son of the homeowner, in that it adds authenticity and another point of view to the book.
Overall, I am happy to have read this book. It is definitely on a topic that I enjoy, and I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a great starting point of learning about either Frank Lloyd Wright or the house itself.
As part of an assignment for AP English over winter break, I was required to read a non-fiction book on any topic and write an online book review for it. All of this review aside from this conclusion paragraph, is said review. For credit, I include my initials: AMW.
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