Strengthening Resilience in a Masterpiece

We took a trip to Fallingwater this past weekend with our grandson, who was visiting. Fallingwater is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic pieces of architecture. Built in 1935 for and with the Edgar Kaufman family of Pittsburgh, it is constructed over a waterfall with the sounds and visuals of Bear Run right below your feet.

I remember watching a PBS special about the preservation and reconstruction of the famous cantilevers of the house. The cantilevers are rigid horizontal elements that are supported at only one end. Over the years, Fallingwater deteriorated and was in danger of falling. A complicated project was undertaken to shore them up with steel cables anchored into the home and across the structure.

During our tour, I asked the docent about the project and whether he thought Wright would approve the restoration effort. He thought momentarily and assured us the Wright would have been in complete support. He shared that unlike the Guggenheim Museum in New York (FLW’s last commission), Fallingwater was not intended to last forever. It was a house planned to survive the Kaufman family’s life. 

Frank Lloyd Wright always loved using the most technologically advanced building ideas, and the innovative work at Fallingwater would have fit beautifully with his belief in progressive building techniques. Even today, the Western PA Conservancy, which manages the home, is finding new methods to help hold back the effects of aging on the house.

When asked about resilience strategies, I always want to learn how others strengthen their resilience. I’m constantly surprised that everyone has their own best practices, some of which today may be old school (like breathing), and others may have new approaches (like video games). Innovation keeps us fresh and restored, and whether you are talking about an architectural masterpiece (Fallingwater) or a biological masterpiece (you), we want to keep looking for new ways to keep things fresh.

© Richard Citrin 2023

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