Architect’s aide returns to masterpiece
At 93, Edward Tafel is the single surviving eyewitness to the early morning events of Sept. 22, 1935, when legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, then 69, is believed to have drawn up the plans for Fallingwater, the weekend home of department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr. and his family located in Mill Run in Fayette County’s Laurel Highlands.
Now nearing the 70 year anniversary of the event, Tafel traveled to Fallingwater from his Greenwich Village home in New York for the annual meeting Saturday of the Fallingwater Advisory Committee.
He was one of 15 apprentices to Wright at the time the architect drew up the plans at his Taliesin, Wis., compound. Tafel was also the site supervisor for the second half of the construction of Fallingwater, making him the last person alive to have actually worked with the building. Tafel also worked on part of the early drawings.
Wright conceived Fallingwater in December 1934. Over a two-hour period in his studio the following September, he put the official drawings to paper for the first time. Kaufmann, who had called early that morning to announce he was on his way to make a surprise visit, immediately accepted the concept when shown the drawings later that same day.
“I can’t think of another building in the history of architecture where you can say it came out in one day,” said Franklin Toker, a University of Pittsburgh professor of the history of art and architecture whose book “Fallingwater Rising” details the construction of the building and the relationship between Wright and Kaufmann.
Fallingwater resuscitated Wright’s reputation and career.