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Wright’s Fallingwater added to UNESCO World Heritage sites

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — The iconic Fallingwater home built over a western Pennsylvania waterfall by Frank Lloyd Wright has been designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

UNESCO announced it added Fallingwater and seven other U.S. buildings designed by Wright in the first half of the 20th century to its World Heritage List during a World Heritage Committee meeting Sunday in Baku, Azerbaijan.

“These buildings reflect the ‘organic architecture’ developed by Wright, which includes an open plan, a blurring of the boundaries between exterior and interior and the unprecedented use of materials such as steel and concrete,” the organization said. “Each of these buildings offers innovative solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work or leisure.”

Besides Fallingwater in Mill Run, Fayette County, the buildings include the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, UNESCO said.

Wright designed Fallingwater in 1935 for Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar Kaufmann Sr. and his family, placing the home on top of Bear Run, a mountain stream and one of the family’s favorite picnicking destinations. Its nearly four-year construction was completed in 1939. Edgar Kaufmann Jr., the Kaufmanns’ only child, inherited Fallingwater in 1955 and used it as a retreat until 1963. He donated the building and hundreds of acres to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which opened it to the public in 1964, and it now has about 180,000 visitors per year.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Lynda Waggoner, Fallingwater’s director emerita who led the team that wrote the revised 369-page nomination, said she’s convinced that without Wright “our architecture today would be very different.”

She said the eight buildings “sum up modern architecture in their open plans, abstraction of form, use of new technology, connection to nature and ability to adapt to modern living.”

Fallingwater director Justin Gunther called the designation “a tremendous honor, one reserved for the world’s most treasured places.”

“Equally as meaningful is the profound influence buildings like Fallingwater can have in enhancing our understanding of the environments we live in today, and the ones we are planning for the future,” he said.

Fallingwater and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall are the only two World Heritage sites in Pennsylvania out of more than 1,000 such sites around the world.