Taliesin West By Wright

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
builders 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, Wrights 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) Finally, by 1937, Wright decided he wanted a more permanent winter residence
and acquired several hundred acres of raw, rugged desert at the foothills of the
McDowell Mountains near Scottsdale, Arizona. Wright literally created Taliesin
West “out of the desert.” He and his apprentices gathered rocks from
the desert floor and sand from the washes to build this great desert masterpiece
(Smith 23). 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 Wrights 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 didnt 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 Wrights 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 weekends 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.

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Its 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 dont 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.

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