History of Taliesin West
Do you have a living room in your house? A carport? Does your house have an “open” floor plan? If so, then the way you live is being directly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s innovations in residential architecture (Copplestone 1).
Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867 in southwestern Wisconsin of talented and dynamic parents; his father a preacher and musician, his mother a teacher. From his father, Wright learned how the order and structure of music had influenced his perception of architectural form. From his mother, he acquired a strong respect for learning (Copplestone 8).
Wright spent his boyhood summers on the farms of his Welsh uncles where he learned to appreciate the values of nature and disciplined hard work. He left his formal schooling at the University of Wisconsin to go to Chicago and in 1887 became an apprentice to the greatest American architect of that time, Louis Sullivan (Nash 4).
In 1893 Wright opened his own practice in Oak Park, Illinois. A distinctive new architecture, which he called ?Organic?, emerged and by 1910 his accomplishments had gained worldwide recognition. There are six chief points to organic architecture. Some of the points include the spiritual integrity of the building, expression the builder?s individuality, incorporation in the design elements and the colors of the site are drawn from nature. Taliesin West is an example of all those characteristics (Nash 34-37).
In 1911 Wright left Oak Park and began the construction of the first Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The original Taliesin was built for himself, his family, his architectural practice and later the Taliesin Fellowship (Wright 6). I learned that about a decade after the original Taliesin was bulit, Wright?s doctor instructed him that he should escape the cold and damp Wisconsin winters due to his health.
Wright first visited Arizona in 1927 when he was asked to consult on designs for the Arizona Biltmore. In the years following that visit, Wright and some of his apprentices spent time at temporary sites in Arizona including a desert camp they constructed near Chandler in 1929, which Wright named ?Ocatilla.? (Boulton 6)
Mountains near Scottsdale, Arizona. Wright literally created Taliesin West “out of the
In my research, almost everything was in chronological order and very accurate. There were no disagreements and I trusted all the information that I read and was given. There is only one speculation that I found to be different and it was the date of the completion of Taliesin West. In several books I read that Wright completed Taliesin in 1938 and other sources led me to believe that I was completed in 1940. I do not think that authors have a reason to misinform people of the date. I do not think it changes anything.
When I asked why Wright chose that exact location in Scottsdale for Taliesin West, Beverly Hart, the public access manager told me that ?selecting a good site was one of Wright?s priorities for architecture.? She told me that ?when he set out to design and build the institution, his goal was to integrate the structures with the ?Nature? of the desert, its soul, and its physical characteristics.? (Hart 3)
In a way, choosing the site for Taliesin West is very contrary to what ordinarily happens in most situations. Most architects want to build in populated areas, so the city builds outward. Wright enjoyed open space; he liked to go where there was no one around. He didn?t want anything to spoil his view by modern conveniences. He created his home, studio and working enviornment in the middle of the desert. With nothing but the most basic materials ? desert stone, redwood, and canvas, Wright was able to create a small community of buildings. It is entered by crossing a graveled courtyard with views of a vine-covered pergola and colorful sculptures. Shallow steps lead to the sunset terrace with a 240-degree panoramic vista of distant mountains and the surrounding desert landscape ( Smith 67 ).
Taliesin is not a museum; but rather a living, working, educational facility as well as the national headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation ( Lind 45). It is also based on the life of Taliesin Fellowship. It is the name of the school Wright and his wife created in October of 1932. Wright later moved the school to Arizona for convenience. According to Wright and his wife, the Fellowship and the building of Taliesin West was established to provide a total learning environment, integrating all aspects of the
apprentices? lives in order to produce responsible, creative and cultured human beings. It also provided an opportunity for them to ?learn by doing? and experience first hand the philosophy of ?organic architecture.? (Wright 2)
The most interesting information that I learned was about what Taliesin means. Taliesin was the name of a Welsh Poet, a druid-bard who sang to Wales the glories of fine art. Literally, the Welsh word means ?shining brow? the nationality of Wright?s ancestors. Taliesin in Wisconsin sits on the ?brow? of a hill overlooking the valley below, while Taliesin West is located on a broad mesa (Wright 8).
Mrs. Hart told me that Taliesin West has been remodeled since Frank Lloyd Wright built it in 1940. ?A major alteration was the addition of a larger playhouse, called the Cabaret-Theater, built in the winters of 1950 and 1951,? she stated. The new theater was the location of the weekend?s relaxation. Dinners were held with music and a movie following. Wright initially planned Taliesin West as a winter “camp” for the Fellowship; building it of wood, desert masonry, and canvas. The addition of air conditioning made longer stays possible, and Taliesin West quickly became an autumn, winter, and spring residence. The canvas roofs were rearranged, rebuilt, and eventually replaced with various synthetic materials that were more durable. Glass, not allowed in the early plans, was added and made more permanent (Nash 63-65). I do not think the adjustment had a negative effect on the structure. It would be impossible for people to work without the air conditioning. The heat and water would ruin the apprentices? work. It was remodeled to keep everything running the way Wright would have liked it.
Mrs. Hart approves of the uses to which Taliesin West has been put. ?It?s a learning environment for everyone that visits,? she stated. ?It is a National Historic Landmark. Apprentices learn organic architecture through participation in design studio, construction, group activities and community living.? (Hart 3) While I was there I learned a great deal. People are extremely friendly, I don?t think I would have them change the way Taliesin is operated.
If I were to choose a hero in the history I examined, Frank Lloyd Wright would be the hero. I think this because he had such an impact upon young architects and building design. He had a brilliant mind to create such amazing pieces of art. I asked Beverly if she knew what kind of person Frank Lloyd Wright was. I was astonished to hear that he was one of the most arrogant individuals in American cultural history. He was very egotistical and thought of himself as the greatest architect of all time (Hart 3)
The reputation of Frank Lloyd Wright and his very creative form of architecture has generated much interest in his concepts, especially in Taliesin West. It was his latest work and showed his attention to detail. Even though this masterpiece was completed almost 60sixty years ago, it remains a favorite destination of knowledgeable people interested in architecture from all around the globe.