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architectourism ISSN 1982-9930

Hotel Tambaú, João Pessoa PB, arquiteto Sérgio Bernardes. Foto Victor Hugo Mori


Após visita ocorrida em novembro de 2019, o arquiteto Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo comenta suas impressões sobre a Casa da Cascata, de Frank Lloyd Wright.

After a visit that took place in November 2019, the architect Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo comments on his impressions about the Casa da Cascaat, by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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AZEVEDO, Paulo Ormindo de. Frank Lloyd Wright's Kaufmann House. The challenge to gravity above a waterfall. Arquiteturismo, São Paulo, year 13, n. 154-155.01, Vitruvius, jan. 2020 <>.

I can't say I didn't know it. I had already seen its plans, photos, and read descriptions and comments, but as I boarded her, rocked by the sound of cascade, I had a enlightenment and no longer recognized anything. Usually when we approach a boat we see it grow ahead of us, and that's how you see it in photographs and videos. However in this approach it was the other way around, it gradually revealed itself through a curtain of trees from the steaming blue chimney to the hull. To my surprise the access ramp went down instead of up.

I crossed the river over a bridge and boarded. Its entrance was little more than a portaló, which continued on a narrow dark path with stone walls, which reminded me more a cave, than a paddle steamboat, like those of the Mississipi River. This impression was confirmed by climbing a few steps and emerging in a large hall. with stone floors and walls. There were signs that people had already lived there, such as a large table with three-legged chairs, the only ones that balanced on the uneven floor, and the elaborate wooden chests. At the bottom of one wall was a brazier for cold nights and above it a pendant cauldron for broth and hot water. On the sides of the room were small terraces, where you could smell the fresh air of the forest.

Fallingwater House (Kaufmann House), Mill Run, USA, 1935. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Foto / Photo Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo

As in every cave I discovered that there was water at the bottom, where you could bathe and even swim, and it was not difficult to find the descent. I was deluded into thinking that I would find a boat floating in a river, but I was actually walking through an enchanted cave. I just didn't see stalactites.

Fallingwater House (Kaufmann House), Mill Run, USA, 1935. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Foto / Photo Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo

Accompanied by a guide and other visitors, we climbed through a narrow dark tunnel of this labyrinthine cave to find another smaller room, about 215 sq.ft.. This room opened onto a huge terrace, three times larger than it, which like a tongue seemed to want to lick the other side of the valley, with its dense forest among outcrops of rock. I cautiously approached its parapet and restored the illusion of being in a barge tower over other decks that intersected with the mine. Farther down the river ran. I realized, however, that this boat of stone did not float on water but hovered dangerously in the air, defying gravity. I ran back to the cave.

Fallingwater House (Kaufmann House), Mill Run, USA, 1935. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Foto / Photo Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo

Once I recovered from the blurring of my vision, I assumed I had not come to see a paddle steamboat or a cave but Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater. The English expression fallingwater, as the mansion is known, translates well the spatial flow of this house. Not the tranquil flow of a plain river, but the swirling waterfall, with systoles and spatial dialysis, which reflect the temperament of its designer. We continued up the piracema waterfall until we reached the fifth, which could be considered the sixth floor, or guesthouse and garage, built two years after its inauguration, and had a view of the house nestled in the valley. The garage, presently a auditorium and not part of the original design, was not in front of the house but set back in the distance.

Fallingwater House (Kaufmann House), Mill Run, USA, 1935. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Foto / Photo Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo

As an architect I started to enjoy the project. Nothing there seemed to happen by chance. Wright opted for a work marked by horizontal lines, in contrast to the forest of vertical logs. Contrast also between the smooth ocher concrete balcony and the dark rustic pillars of local sedimentary stone. Yes, the entire vertical structure of the house is made of 2 ft. thick stone masonry. Only two concrete pillars support the first and second floors with incredible 18.5 ft. span of cantilever, thanks to the inverted beams of the terrace parapet. Those two pillars are the knife-edge of the scale formed by the floors of the house and the terraces.

Fallingwater House (Kaufmann House), second floor plan, Mill Run, USA, 1935. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Imagem divulgação [Website oficial Fallingwater House]

The architect, then 70 years old, organically integrated the house with the natural place. Its second floor is anchored by a beam comb to the stony slope of the valley and its back terrace rests on an outcrop of rock, the same material that it uses in structural masonry. In addition to the stone and reinforced concrete, used in the slabs and roof of the mansion, he uses the glass, in beautiful iron frames painted of vermilion. But to give visual continuity of the interior with the exterior, he eliminates the frames in the encounter of the glass with the stone. Wright hated the corners and eliminated them with angled frames that opened with unframed leaves.

Fallingwater House (Kaufmann House), Mill Run, USA, 1935. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Foto / Photo Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo

Functionally, he privileged outdoor living on terraces where you could enjoy the landscape and wildlife. Rooms are relatively small for a mansion of that size. The Kaulfmann master bedroom had only 215 sq.ft. and its terrace 645 sq. ft. The dressing room, which would be transformed into the husband's bedroom, and the studio on the third floor, which would be used as the son's bedroom measure 161 sq.ft. They are all in the same living room plumb to be heated by the fireplace chimney. The primitive guest room was only 140 sq.ft., but all rooms were suites. In short, the rooms, the dressing room and the studio sum 65 m², not counting the bathrooms and circulation against 2,152 sq.ft. of terraces. Only the living room, with 968 sq.ft., is proportional to the size of the house.

Fallingwater House (Kaufmann House), Mill Run, USA, 1935. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Foto / Photo Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo

Another concern of the architect was with the lighting. All windows have marquees to prevent direct sunlight penetration and the terraces are partly shaded by pergolas. They were like the brim of his inseparable hat. The interior lighting is always discreet, indirect, from the top of the cabinets, which do not reach the ceiling. Only the living, by its large size, has central lighting in the ceiling. Wright was not only an architect, he was also a landscape designer, decorator, designer of furniture, lights, rugs, drapery and mentor to his trainees. Wright was especially a teacher, who even 60 years after his death continues to teach us what good architecture is like.

Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo at Fallingwater House (Kaufmann House), Mill Run, USA, 1935. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Foto / Photo Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo

PS – According to Lúcio Costa those balconies could be inspired by a modernist house of Gregori Waschavchik in Rio de Janeiro. Wright was in Rio in 1931, as a member of the judging committee of the international competition for the construction of the Colombo Lighthouse in Santo Domingo, and he with Lúcio and the author of the project attended its high society opening, at 138 Toneleiro Street, in Copacabana. Wright would have shown admiration for the rationality of the house and especially for the balconies that had inverted beams as parapet and that surpassed laterally the body of the house. In 1935 he would adopt a similar, but much bolder solution, at Fallingwater, True or not, here is the record (1).

William Nordschild House, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 1930-1931. Architect Gregori Warchavchik
Foto divulgação


IRIGOYEN, Adriana. Wright e Artigas: duas viagens. São Paulo, Ateliê Editorial, 2002, p. 42-48.

about the author

Ormindo de Azevedo is a brazilian architect with Phd in restoration of monuments and sites by the University of Rome, “La Sapienza”, and Full Professor of the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. Author of projects, books and articles on architecture and urbanism, he visited Fallingwater for the first time last november.


154.01 Eu estive lá...
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original: português

others: english



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