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An analysis of the model yields fresh insights about the house.
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At first blush, the title has the same desperate ring as McDonald's: The Tofuburger or Disney: The Diaper--they couldn't think of another angle for a book about Fallingwater, the 1937 Pennsylvania house that still ranks as perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous and loved project, so they decided to do a book about the model of Fallingwater? Jeez! Such were my thoughts until I started leafing through this absolutely fascinating little book by Paul Bonfilio, the Madame Tussaud of architectural model-makers, who has created miniature reproductions of architectural landmarks (among them Johnson's Glass House, Neutra's Lovell House, and Mies's Barcelona Pavilion) for the permanent collection of NYC's Museum of Modern Art. Here, Bonfilio walks you through the process of re-creating on a Lilliputian scale this most complicated and beguiling of modernist houses--a job he completed for the MoMA in the early 1980s, only to do it again a few years later for a private commission. His painstaking narration, black-and-white photographs of each stage of the model's creation, and Ted Spagna's excellent photographs of the real house (shot expressly for Bonfilio to use in planning out his work) all work together splendidly here. Anyone who ever found satisfaction in the minutely focused process of assembling a model car or airplane will be completely absorbed by Bonfilio's quest to reproduce with unstinting detail and realism the diverse textures of Wright's masterpiece, from the complex stonework of its inner and outer walls to the dazzling sheen of the waterfall over which the front of the structure so famously perches.
But even better than that, Bonfilio's loving chronicle of taking Fallingwater apart and putting it back together again, as it were, accomplishes something that dozens of other books on this iconic house fail to do: it gets us to look at the house and its complex topography, its every elevation and surface, corner, and detail--as well as the choices, inspired and imprudent, that Wright made in designing it--with a fresh new eye. It's almost like having an investment in its original creation, figuring out step by step how to build a house around a boulder, cantilever it over a waterfall, build half the furniture right into it, and somehow make the whole thing work structurally and look drop-dead gorgeous at the same time. Oh, and the book's end papers are matched to the same Cherokee-red paint that Wright used in the house--the perfect swaddling for this unexpectedly delightful little volume's embarrassment of riches. --Timothy MurphyAbout the Author:
Paul Bonfilio is an architect, and currently a commissioner and vice-chairman of the Board of Standards and Appeals of the City of New York.
Terrence Riley is chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
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