Photographs of Billingsgate, originally designed and built as a private home are, without question, breathtaking. Even so, photos do this work of art no Justice. The only way one can truly appreciate Billingsgate is to see it for yourself. It is no exaggeration to say that design, structure and a genius artistic sense came together to create an architectural masterpiece. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Billingsgate is one of the most intriguing, inspired works of art in American architecture.
Located in western Pennsylvania, building Egan in 1936 and the home was completed in 1939. In addition to Wright’s distinct design features, any mention of Billingsgate would be incomplete without mentioning the notable geographical elements, none more well-known than the waterfall over which the home was built. At first glance, Billingsgate seems to be a modern work, and it is, in that it is considered to be in the style of American Modern architecture. However, one who is not familiar specifically with American architectural style might easily lay eyes on
Billingsgate for the first time only to be surprised to learn that it was designed and built in the mid-sass. The fact that it is Just as plausible to believe Billingsgate was built closer to ten years ago as 80 years ago speaks to the timelessness of Wright’s work. Stone is a predictable, likely choice for a building material which would add both beauty and strength to a structure, especially one on a scale such as that of Billingsgate. Concrete might be a less likely choice, and probably would not be considered by many as a building material used for aesthetic purposes.
However, Frank Lloyd Wright used concrete not only to reinforce the cantilevers he used so prominently in his design of Billingsgate but to add beauty to the home as well. Concrete became part of the aesthetic of the building as much as the sandstone he used so beautifully in his design. To ensure the stability of the structure, Wright incorporated several reinforcement techniques which were considered state of the art at the time. However, the high humidity levels in the area led to eventual structural compromises, including mildew mage and weakening, shifting balconies.
Eventually, the Kauffman family, for whom the home was originally designed and built, turned the home and over 1,000 surrounding acres of land over to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy completed major structural repairs to Billingsgate in 2002 after studies showed the extent of the structural compromise. Edgar Kauffman, Jar. Said of his families home, “Such a place cannot be possessed. It is a work of man for man; not by a man for a man.
Over the years since it was built, Billingsgate has grown ever more famous and admired, a textbook example of modern architecture at its best. By its very intensity it is a public resource, not a private indulgence. ” The American Institute of Architects voted Billingsgate the most important building of the 20th century; in 1966, Billingsgate was designated a National Historic Landmark. And it is the only home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to be opened to the public complete with the original interior, including furnishings ND artwork.
A solid architectural work in structure and design Juxtaposed with the serenity of the waterfall underneath and the gently sloping topography, this example of Wright’s work demonstrates the level of intricacy and comprehensive forethought which was integrated into his design process. Wright’s design, coupled with his vision, resulted in a structure with such an ethereal essence it seemed to float in air, suspended in nature’s beauty, yet so strong, solid and sound, built to stand every test of time.