Imagine the opportunity to experience the environment which gave birth to some of the world’s greatest architectural wonders, walking where the great Frank Lloyd Wright walked, feeling the organic connection between earth and element that inspired such remarkable creations as the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and countless private residences throughout the United States, including much of the design work for Fallingwater, Wright’s residential masterpiece near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For those visiting Scottsdale, a trip to Taliesin West is just such an opportunity.
Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona
In northeast of Scottsdale, Arizona there is a living memorial to a great American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Nestled in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains and surrounded by the spectacular Sonoran Desert lays a sprawling 600-acre complex called Taliesin West. It was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. The buildings and the landscape at Taliesin West complement each other. They coexist in harmony — form and color, beauty and grace, nature and science are all blended. Taliesin West (pronounced: tal-ee-ess-in) is a National Historic Landmark.
Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867. Wright grew up in rural Wisconsin, was taught the virtue of hard work, and acquired a love of the landscape. At the age of eighteen he entered university to study civil engineering and shortly thereafter began his career in architecture. He became a revolutionary and a nonconformist. He despised what he called the stale, backward looking ideas of his peers who were designing architecture based on the Greek, Roman, Gothic, and Tudor models instead of creating a new, vibrant American landscape. He longed to be freed from the limits of existing material and designs. In his various writings, he described “organic architecture” with site-specific construction where “form and function were one.” He set forth the principles of the Prairie House with open expanses and limited subdivisions, which he referred to as “boxes.” While his architectural principles gained him fame overseas, Frank Lloyd Wright was not always appreciated at home, where he was often ridiculed. Eventually the number of his followers grew.
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Ten years after visiting Arizona in 1927 to consult on designs for the Biltmore hotel, architect Frank Lloyd Wright chose 600 acres of rugged Sonoran Desert at the foothills of the McDowell Mountains as the site for his permanent winter residence. Today the site is a National Historic Landmark and still an active community of students and architects. Wright and apprentices constructed a desert camp here using organic architecture to integrate the buildings with their natural surroundings. In addition to the living quarters, drafting studio, and small apartments of the Apprentice Court, Taliesin West has two theaters, a music pavilion, and the Sun Trap—sleeping spaces surrounding an open patio and fireplace. Six guided tours are offered, ranging from a one-hour “panorama” tour to a three-hour behind-the-scenes tour, with other tours offered seasonally; all visitors must be accompanied by a guide. Wear comfortable shoes for walking. The half-hour drive from downtown Scottsdale is very worthwhile.
Drive north on the 101 Freeway to Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard. Follow Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard for a few miles to the entrance at the corner of Cactus Road.
Doing Wright right: Taliesin West to undergo net-zero renovation
AD Classics: Taliesin West / Frank Lloyd Wright
Situated in the Sonoran desert outside of Scottsdale, Arizona stands a living memorial and testament to the life and work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Completed between 1937 – 1959, Taliesin West was the winter home to Wright and his wife’s summer home, Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin in addition to being Wright’s workshop and school for his apprentices.
First conceptualized in 1927 to escape the harsh winters of the Midwest, Arizona’s arid desert climate proved to a place that could inspire Wright and his apprentices. Wright found that the atmosphere of Scottsdale’s Sonoran desert was a perfect place for a residence, a place of business, and most importantly a place to learn stating:
“Arizona needs its own architecture… Arizona’s long, low, sweeping lines, uptilting planes. Surface patterned after such abstraction in line and color as find “realism” in the patterns of the rattlesnake, the Gila monster, the chameleon, and the saguaro, cholla or staghorn – or is it the other way around—are inspiration enough.”
Seamlessly woven into the rugged terrain of the American southwest, Frank Lloyd Wright observed that Taliesin West “belonged to the Arizona desert as though it had stood there during creation.” Wright designed Taliesin West as his winter home and studio for his family and apprentices. The main complex was built between 1937 and 1942, and the architect continued to add structures and make modifications until his death in 1959.
Embodying essential modernist concepts and striving for functionality, Wright used canvas roofing, permitting natural light to descend on his architectural laboratory. The structure’s linear design hovers over the warm earth, reflecting the region’s desert with angled red beams. Multiple structures complete the complex, each unique in their own right while harmonizing the organic, unified vision Wright sought.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West celebrates it 75th
The stunning desert buildings – Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal winter home, studio and the architectural campus (the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture) – were built in 1937 and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. More than 100,000 visitors descend upon Taliesin West annually to get a better sense of one of the greatest architects of all time. There are a number of guided public tours. Their 90 minute insights tour is the “Signature Tour” and explores the grounds of Taliesin West and then takes visitors into the living quarters, showing a more private side of Frank Lloyd Wright. Other tours include a 2 hour night lights tour to a 3 hour behind the scenes tour. Seeing his work which seems still so modern and contemporary for our time, it’s hard to imagine that Frank Lloyd Wright already thought about these concepts 75 years ago.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S TALIESIN WEST
Taliesin West was built by Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices in the 1930s and was constantly expanded and modified by the architect until his death in 1959. Wright and his apprentices literally created Taliesin West out of the desert by gathering rocks from the desert floor and sand from the washes to keep the design in balance with the surrounding environment. The site, considered one of the Wright’s greatest masterpieces, was designed to serve as Wright’s personal home, studio and architectural laboratory. Today, visitors can choose from a broad range of tours that showcase Wright’s brilliant ability to integrate indoor and outdoor space. For tour reservations, call 480.627.5340.