Frank Friday. During the month of April, 2016, Inspired by my re-visit to Taliesin West, I will be writing about some of my Frank Lloyd Wright visits.
If you are reading this, it is possible that you already know whom world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright is; what and where his winter home Taliesin West is. Perhaps you have visited this marvel? Or, perhaps you are a curious wanderer who likes to seek out interesting architectural and garden places to visit on your journeys? Whether you are the former or the latter, I would love to show you the exciting polishing that is taking place at this American jewel and National Historic Landmark, Taliesin West. Follow along on this mainly pictorial journey.
In 2010 Taliesin (Wisconsin) and Taliesin West (Scottsdale,) were both named to the World Monuments Watchlist by The World Monuments Fund. This group has been in place since 1965 and has had the pleasure of assisting with identification, preservation and the protection of imperiled cultural, architectural and heritage sites. Sometimes these sights are chosen for places at risk from Mother Nature, social, political and economic change. This group does not fund but rather is able to direct financial and technical support for their long term preservation.” This is a huge deal, I’m talking Leaning Tower of Pisa, floods of Venice Italy and Petra Archeological Site big deal. Fun to explore the World Monuments Fund website.
This past week I spent some time back in the Phoenix, Arizona area, my husband also a FLW enthusiast, reminded me that he had never visited Taliesin West. I dug back 14 years in the photo albums and sure enough, I last visited with kids in tow. I decided to tour with him and was beyond thrilled to see and feel the positive momentum and energy surrounding this gem in the desert.
Located in Scottsdale, Arizona on 550 acres tucked into the foothills of The McDowell Mountains, this property has been in constant change and growth since it’s inception in 1937. Also home to The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and headquarters of the FLW fellowship; it is a working, living, and breathing property that has graciously allowed guided only tours. The tour includes the areas not currently being used and lived in by the students of this Masters of Architecture program and the fellows who remain at Taliesin West.
On this tour, our group of approximately 20 people met in the nearby bookshop and began at the entrance with the story of how the site was chosen by Frank Lloyd Wright after he suffered a bout of pneumonia during the cold winter of Wisconsin. So at the age of 70 he decided to set up camp and build a winter home/school. He had done work in the Phoenix area and had already been in love with the desert, and felt this would be a great place to bring his school during the winter months. I am sure the students also welcomed the weather change and yet they were often the building crew. We saw sculptures and petroglyphs on rocks near the entrance. This is not your average home.
If I had to name one thing that I love about FLW design; and this would be difficult for me, I would say Organic Architecture. I love when building marries earth and lives together in perfect harmony. In the photo below the stones are left intentionally uncovered. Seriously, I want to move right in!
We began in a building known as Wright’s Office. This building was used as a reception area and design studio. I am always surprised by how this architect showers the rooms with light. We learned that this area was designed for perfect lighting.
We walked around the side of the main building.
This area is the student’s area and is a working school, cafeteria and design area. With fountains, sculptures, desert landscape and building details my eyes could not stand still. Plus, I felt like a kid not listening to the teacher as the tour guide spoke; there is simply so much wonder to take in.
We learned that FLW lost a battle all the way to the government. It seems the utility company put up poles and wires in his pristine view. We learned that he had to redesign the entry after being challenged by his wife. I would have felt the same way.
The photo below shows the exterior of the student living areas.
Looking at the panoramic photo, one might think that the school is intruding on the living area, it is not. Separated by a dogtrot (sorry architects, this is probably not correct terminology,) landscaping and angle of the school. I imagine to have been quite peaceful. I would like to point out that at one time, there were no windows on this property, canvas was used and then later windows and other materials were put in for practicality. According to lore, Mrs. Wright insisted upon this change.
Want to bet that this sculpture is strategically places? See those utilities in background.
True to form the door is unassuming and leads into the brightly lit and larger area of the living room. Over the years, I have heard this phenomena described with different language. The term for this: “compression-expansion” or “compression-release” or “tension and resolution” and“embrace and release.” I actually did not notice this, my engineer husband did. Whatever it is called, I LOVE this concept.
Having visited many FLW homes with this design , I always get the same feeling; as if I stepped out of darkness into light, or as if I am entering a new and soulful place. This feeling always makes me happy, takes my breath away and gives me a calm sense of peace. What a magnificent way to live. In the photo below, you are able to see the wooden doorway carved in such a way that when the sun shines in, the repeat pattern also shows up on the floor.
Yes, the concrete is worn here but this property is now in such a wonderful state of repair. Kudos to those managing this property!
Another view from the dining/living area shows the open areas of the living space and the relation to our natural world.
Below is a view from the back yard area. These two photo depicts principles of Organic Architecture as well as life with our natural world. This is the enclosed sunken garden.
This shot was taken from the doorway of Mr. Lloyds office. We were told that this is where students came to him with questions. There were two small beds separated by a wooden partition. This was built so that students would know if he was resting or if he was sleeping by looking through a small window. Several examples of FLW interest in Asian decor are noted throughout the property. An avid collector of silk screens, many of these are now in museums but we were able to see this replica in his office.
From this area we stepped out to the opposite side of the building. I just wanted to stand still there. To the left was the student dining area and a large expansive garden, to the right, a small fountain pool and the entrance to the living areas for the fellows who continue to live here.
Here is a look at some of the details visible from this spot.
And this bell with many design patterns and colors used by FLW throughout his career.
We also visited a conference room that is currently in use by students. It showed a round conference table and current work of the students on the wall. This room was also used as a film watching room. FLW was a fan of the cinema. Remember, he was born in 1867.
We passed through a sculpture garden and learned that the artist of many of the works by the name of Heloise Crista is ailing and wished her well. Crista joined the Taliesin Fellowship in 1949.
The next stop was a Cabaret Theater with a stage where FLW and the students practied social skills. (No photo).
After this area, we visited another movie screen and music room. You would NEVER guess what the inside might be like.
As aways, the entrance is interesting.
True to form, upon entrance, I did have the feeling of curiosity.
This six-sided theater held a few fun facts. One fact is that the sound is 95% acoustically perfect. I was sitting in the very last row and our tour guide moved about, when he was on one portion of the stage, I was able to hear his voice at a whisper, perfectly well. We also learned that Wright initiated many new ideas and techniques including: air conditioning and floor lighting. Floor lighting is used on all airplanes today.
Having toured many FLW homes, I have to say that I learned a lot on our tour. Our tour guide was extremely informed and interesting. The property is likely in the best shape of it’s life. We did end with a talk about becoming a foundation member and supporting the cause of Taliesin and Taliesin West. I have joined the ranks of the Foundation Member and consider it a privilege to be a part of the preservation of both Taliesin properties. If you haven’t been to this location in a few years, consider a re-visit. I am so glad that I did.
This is my one of my favorite sculptures in the whole world. It aligns with one of my core beliefs. Thanks to Eckhart Tolle and The Oracle of Kabbalah for this very important life lesson! Do note, this statue is called aiming and there is no arrow. Profound. This can stay when I move in.
MEGastars: 5 ****** Fantastic!
- This property may be visited with a tour guide only. You are able to go into the book store and walk up towards the property. From there, it is guide only. The tours fill up quickly. I visited at the end of March. With spring breaks and baseball spring training, I was lucky to secure a ticket.
- Do secure a ticket ahead of time. Tickets are available through zerve.com and you are able to get the code to simply download on your phone, you may also print tickets or pick them up at the bookstore. Ask about their discounts for military, students and seniors.
- Do NOT forget your camera.
- Do visit the bookstore. This store held a nice amount of goods and books related to FLW. And of course, I would have loved to bring home a sculpture by Heloise Crista
- Taliesin West website
- For the many tour options, follow the link on the above website to tours and times. You may then link to zerve.com /TaliesinWest for booking or, you may phone 888-516-0811 to secure tickets.
- After securing tickets, arrive to Taliesin 15-30 minutes ahead allowing for time to gather your items, car parking and walking into the bookstore where you will meet your tour group. On the day that I went there was a family of 7 that showed up and slowly went through each tour with the one person that scanned tickets.
- There are many available tours. I took the Insights Tour 1.5 hrs, and the one thing that I must say is that there was no time to stop and take photos. I sort of wandered away from the group many times while staying in ear-shot of the guide. I am not sure if it was simply the busy week or the norm.
- You may want to take several tours. I would LOVE to take the Desert Walk tour that lasts 1.5 hrs on Tue-Thur-Sat. This just didn’t fit my busy week.
- There is also a Desert “Shelter” Tour 2 hrs on Saturdays mid November through April at 9am. The students of FLW School of Architecture give tours of what is called “the coolest dorms in the world.” With this tour, you learn about their innovative shelter program that has occurred since FLW slept under these stars. I love Tiny Houses and watched this 21 min YouTube video on one of them. Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture house.
- Bring water, sunscreen and a hat, it is the desert.
- While reading up on Heloise Crista, I saw this great story 10 Taliesin West Treasures Hidden in Plain Sight It spoke to the many antiquities that are still located on this property. I wished that I had this information before my visit.
- Taliesin means “shining brow” in the Welsh language and his ancestry.
- Can’t seem to get there, watch this YouTube Video. There are many of them so I went for something not too old or too long.
- Taliesin West Tour You Tube
- Check out more photos on my Instagram Meg’s Instagram
- and facebook.Facebook page “like” to follow.