Frank Lloyd Wright, E. J. Kaufmann,
and America's Most Extraordinary House
by Franklin Toker
- Early on in the book (page 6) the author announces his intent to defeat four myths about the creation of Fallingwater. Do you feel he overthrew those myths, or not? Does this affect your appreciation of the house, or not?
- In Chapter One, Toker presents Frank Lloyd Wright as an architect in conflict with designers both more conservative and more radical, and on page 19 he calls the traditional 1935 Supreme Court an architectural troglodyte. Is this fair to the spirit of the times? What would a Wright-designed Supreme Court have looked like? Would it have been an improvement on what exists now? What complaint did the more radical architects have with Wright?
- Why does the author suggest that Wright's humiliations at the Museum of Modern Art and elsewhere strengthened the eventual design of Fallingwater? Do you agree with this analysis?
- E. J. Kaufmann was certainly a striking character, but was he lucky--as his own son believed--or truly skilled as a patron of architecture? How did his early buildings prepare him--if at all--for the adventure of Fallingwater?
- Why did Wright call Kaufmann "the Shopper" (page 53)? Was this dismissive phrase accurate, considering how often Kaufmann shifted taste as he put up building after building?
- Kaufmann believed (page 75) that "the prime merchandise to pull shoppers into a store was the store itself." Is that your experience as a shopper? What brings you into a store?
- In Chapter Four, we are given a detailed analysis of the relationship between Wright and Kaufmann. Does this implied parity between the two give too much importance to Kaufmann? In terms of style, does it greatly matter who pays for a building?
- Chapter Five begins with an extended discussion of Wright's disinclination to make early sketches of his design of Fallingwater. Did it significantly matter if Wright put his ideas on paper early or late? Do you have other explanations for Wright's long delay in drawing up the project?
- The author proposes that Wright relied on many sources for his design of Fallingwater: his own early works, elements from Italy and the American Southwest, even from some works of his rivals. Are you convinced by these proposals? Do you see other possible sources for the design?
- Why did Wright fix on reinforced concrete as the main material for Fallingwater? Were Kaufmann, the Pittsburgh engineers, and Wright's apprentices justified in changing the Master's structural drawings? Do you think these interventions helped or harmed the resulting building?
- Many visitors to Fallingwater have difficulty with its interior. Does the discussion in Chapter Seven convince you of the validity of Wright's interior concept for the house as "a furnished cave" (page 230)?
- The author uses chapters Eight and Nine to show how Fallingwater gained its popularity with the public. Can you add other reasons? What is the meaning of Fallingwater to you?