Taliesin West is located on Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is open to the public for tours. Taliesin, Wright’s home in Spring Green, Wisconsin, was the inspiration for the complex.
Taliesin and Taliesin West are the two residences of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as architecture schools. Taliesin, located near Spring Green, Wisconsin, was built in 1911 and restored following fires in 1914 and 1925.
On his doctor’s recommendation, Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship began “migrating” to Arizona every winter in 1935 to avoid the cold Wisconsin winters. Wright bought the plot of desert land that would become Taliesin West in 1937.
Taliesin West was established in 1937 as a winter retreat for Wright and his students near Scottsdale, Arizona. Wright was descended from the Welsh bard Taliesin, and called his homes after him. Both buildings were constantly renovated and added to until Wright’s death in 1959, during which they were inhabited by Wright Foundation members.
This, Wright claimed, was the ideal location for such a structure: a place of residence, a place of commerce, and a place of learning. He felt that finally, he discovered a spot twenty-six miles from Phoenix, across the vast Paradise Valley desert. Up into the mountains to a large mesa. They came to a halt on the mesa just below McDowell Peak, turned around, and looked around and saw what looked like the highest point on the planet.
The cost of digging a well deep enough to supply enough water for the campus was over $10,000. During the early winters, Wright and his students remained in tents before constructing the first buildings, which were often designed by hand using local materials (rocks, stone and sand). The buildings’ architecture complemented the site’s natural Sonoran Desert scenery.
The walls of the building are composed of local desert rocks piled inside wood forms and packed with mortar, a technique known as “desert masonry.” Wright preferred to use locally available items over those that had to be shipped to the job site.
Wright himself put it this way: “There were easy silhouettes to go on, as well as massive drifts and heaps of sunburned desert rocks nearby to use. With the scenery, we were able to put it all together…” To save concrete, the smooth surfaces of the rocks were mounted outward facing, and huge boulders filled the interior space.
The use of natural light was also important in the design. Wright used transparent canvas as a roof in his drafting room (later replaced by plastic because of the intense wear from the Arizona sun).
Wright did not take the masonry walls from floor to ceiling in the south-facing dining room, instead designing the roof to hang past the walls, stopping unnecessary solar rays from entering while allowing horizontal light to pass in.
Natural light, Wright thought, aided the work atmosphere in which his apprentices worked by having the inside of his building connected to the natural world.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s intimate touch can be seen in Taliesin West. Any time Wright returned from a summer in Wisconsin, he grabbed a hammer and tore his way through the complex. He’d go from room to room, making changes or barking commands to apprentices who trailed behind him with wheelbarrows and equipment. He was continually changing and improving his style in order to resolve new situations and solve issues that arose.
He expanded the dining room over time, as well as adding the cabaret theatre, music pavilion, and several other spaces. Wright crafted much of the furniture and fixtures, with the bulk of them being produced by apprentices. The cabaret theatre is a genius feature of Wright’s architecture.
The theater, which has six sides and is irregularly hexagonal in form, is built out of the traditional rock-concrete mixture and gives “95 percent acoustic perfection” to its occupants. And the faintest whisper from a speaker on stage can be heard by those on the back row.
Present Day Taliesin West
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s offices and the Taliesin School of Architecture’s winter home remain at Taliesin West. Students and faculty enjoy the summers in Spring Green, Wisconsin, much as they did in Wright’s days. Taliesin University’s School of Architecture offers an accredited Master of Architecture (M.Arch) degree based on Wright’s concepts.
By Dru Bloomfield – https://www.flickr.com/photos/athomeinscottsdale/3836187025/in/photostream/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=95427764
Becoming a National Historic Landmark and Attaining World Heritage Status
On February 12, 1974, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and on May 20, 1982, it was listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Taliesin West, along with nine other Frank Lloyd Wright sites, was added to a provisional list for World Heritage Status by the US National Park Service in 2008. The ten sites were submitted as a single entity.
“The creation of a Tentative List is a required first step in the process of naming a site to the World Heritage List,” according to a press release from the National Park Service website announcing the nominees on January 22, 2008. Taliesin West and seven other sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2019 under the heading “The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright” after updated plans.
Scottsdale, Arizona is full of amazing historical landmarks that help to make our city an amazing, culturally rich city:
- Scottsdale Grammar School, also called The Little Red Schoolhouse
- George Ellis House
- Louise Lincoln Kerr House
- McCormick Stillman Railroad Park
- The Valley Field Riding and Polo Club of Scottsdale
- Roald Amundsen Pullman Private Railroad Car
- Old Town Scottsdale
- Main Street Arts District
All of these wonderful landmarks are located just a short distance from our location at 7106 East Main Street! Stop by for a visit anytime!