Synopses & Reviews
Fallingwater Rising is a biography not of a person but of the most famous house of the twentieth century. Scholars and the public have long extolled the house that Frank Lloyd Wright perched over a Pennsylvania waterfall in 1937, but the full story has never been told.
When he got the commission to design the house, Wright was nearing seventy, his youth and his early fame long gone. It was the Depression, and Wright had no work in sight. Into his orbit stepped Edgar J. Kaufmann, a Pittsburgh department-store mogul "the smartest retailer in America" and a philanthropist with the burning ambition to build a world-famous work of architecture. It was an unlikely collaboration: the Jewish merchant who had little concern for modern architecture and the brilliant modernist who was leery of Jews. But the two men collaborated to produce an extraordinary building of lasting architectural significance that brought international fame to them both and confirmed Wright’s position as the greatest architect of the twentieth century.
Fallingwater Rising is also an enthralling family drama, involving Kaufmann, his beautiful cousin/wife, Liliane, and their son, Edgar Jr., whose own role in the creation of Fallingwater and its ongoing reputation is central to the story. Involving such key figures of the l930s as Frida Kahlo, Albert Einstein, Henry R. Luce, William Randolph Hearst, Ayn Rand, and Franklin Roosevelt, Fallingwater Rising shows us how E. J. Kaufmann’s house became not just Wright’s masterpiece but a fundamental icon of American life.
One of the pleasures of the book is its rich evocation of the upper-crust society of Pittsburgh Carnegie, Frick, the Mellons a society that was socially reactionary but luxury-loving and baronial in its tastes, hobbies, and sexual attitudes (Kaufmann had so many mistresses that his store issued them distinctive charge plates they could use without paying).
Franklin Toker has been studying Fallingwater for eighteen years. No one but he could have given us this compelling saga of the most famous private house in the world and the dramatic personal story of the fascinating people who made and used it.
A major contribution to both architectural and social history.
"A cerebral, spiritual, and social pilgrimage....Digging into personal and architectural history, Toker demonstrates spadework of the highest, most exacting, and refined order." Kirkus Reviews
"Wright's Fallingwater house made America fall in love with modernist architecture, according to this engrossing study...The trenchant analysis of Wright's character and creativity, the often lyrical evocations of his buildings, and the opinionated but insightful overview of the modernist intellectual milieu of the 1930s make the book a wonderful exploration of the psychological and social meaning of architecture." Publishers Weekly
Includes bibliographical references (p. -462) and index.
About the Author
Franklin Toker, a professor of the history of art and architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, has published books on church architecture in French Canada, the ancient cathedral of Florence (which he excavated), and the architecture and urbanism of Pittsburgh. He has won both the Porter Prize and the Hitchcock Award. Born in Montreal, he was educated at McGill University, Oberlin College, and Harvard University. A past president of the Society of Architectural Historians, Toker lives with his family in Pittsburgh.