Bob Silman: In Memoriam
August 8, 2018
Mill Run, Pa. – August 8, 2018 – The staff and boards of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Fallingwater are deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Bob Silman – husband, father, friend and leader in the engineering and preservation industries. Bob, who passed away on July 31 at the age of 83, was the founder and president of Robert Silman Associates, P.C., a structural engineering firm which lead the most extensive and important preservation effort on Fallingwater to date.
His long career as an engineer was steeped in professionalism, precision and excellence, and those traits were on full display when he devised a plan in the mid-1990s to save Fallingwater from mere collapse. Research from an engineering student found structural deficiencies in the beams, or cantilevers, which support the living room terrace that extends over the waterfall.
Lynda S. Waggoner, Fallingwater’s director during that time and now the director emerita, said Bob lead a full investigation of the faltering cantilevers, and as a result of his expertise, collaborative approach and time-saving strategies, provided a successfulsolution to prevent the collapse of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic buildings.
“Not only was he a brilliant engineer, a genuinely good person, and a delight to work with, I think he is the one person who deserves the most credit for saving Fallingwater,” Lynda said.
Lynda said Bob’s solution to strengthen the cantilevers with a system of post-tensioning cables was elegant, as he preserved the material integrity of Fallingwater and minimized any incidental damage to prevent future deflections. He also took care in removing the living room’s built-in furniture and lifted the flagstone floor, she recalled, revealing the structural system of reinforced concrete beams and joints supporting the cantilevers.
“We still have such sincere appreciation and gratitude for his leadership and council throughout the entire process to save Fallingwater about 20 years ago,” said Lynda. “We could not be more grateful to the man who made it possible.”
We extend our sincere condolences to his wife, Roberta, and their children Miriam, Joshua and Ruth, and other family members, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.
The post-tensioning effort at Fallingwater is chronicled in the film Saving Fallingwater and a Scientific American journal article, titled The Plan to Save Fallingwater, that was written by Bob. Bob is also remembered in this New York Times article published on August 7, 2018.