Two of the iconic houses we saw on the tour are at opposing sides of architectural styles: Farnsworth (1945-1951) by Mies in the modernist International style and Wright’s Fallingwater (1936-1939) in the modernist organic style of architecture; yet they are only separated by 12 years.
But what did each architect say of the others work?
In THIS ARTICLE by Peter Blake Wright is quoted as saying that the ‘promoters’ of the international style is Mies was not wholesome!
“The Internatiknal Style’ … is totalitarianism [Wright announced]. These Bauhaus architects ran from political totalitarianism in Germany to what is now made by specious promotion to seem their own totalitarianism in art here in America . . . Why do I mistrust and defy such ‘internationalism’ as I do Communism ? Because both must by their nature do this very levelling in the name ofcivilisation . . . [The promoters of the International Style] are not a wholesome people . . .”
If this was the case then why was Mies welcomed and entertained as a guest at Taliesin and “… won the respect of Wright.” More details on this momentous meeting of architects can be read in THIS PIECE on the Mies Society website.
What do I think? Both houses are beautiful in their own way and both in exquisite settings. For technical excellence in design and detailing Farnsworth is exceptional; the structural steelwork looks almost as if it’s held together magnetically:
And Fallingwater, with its beautiful setting, set over and within the waterfall rather than looking at it is the epitomy of house and landscape entwined. It could be described as more art than architecture and it’s well known that the house has had issues both structurally and with water ingress – repairs are still ongoing as we visited:
One of the greatest stories I read (allegedly true) was regarding how long it took Wright to design Fallingwater. After 7 months the clients were concerned and enquired about the progress of the design to Wright and that they were coming over to go through the designs with him. So in the 140 miles it took the Kaufmanns to drive Wright set about the drawings of the house; apprentices couldn’t sharpen pencils fast enough and the design “fell out of Wrights’ sleeves” ! The drawings were finished before they arrived and although surprised the house wasn’t set to look directly at the falls; they understood and immediately loved the concept of the house being part of the falls and the cascading cantilevered terraces being the architectural representation of the same.
Although I didn’t know it as a 7 year old it would be Wrights house that inspired me to become and be an architect; as it was Fallingwater that was the inspiration for the main house in Gerry Andersons’ Thunderbirds. You can read about how I was inspired by Thunderbirds in a Novedge post HERE