Taliesin West: 10 True Facts

Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, is located in Scottsdale, Arizona. One of Arizona’s first “snowbirds”arriving in early October and returning to his summer home in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

  1. Taliesin West became a UNESCO World Heritage site on July 7, 2019
Entrance to Taliesin West (Carol Kubota)

2. The Desert Lab

Mr. Wright bought six hundred acres for $3.75 an acre in 1936. He described the view as “a look over the rim of the world”.

He referred to Taliesin as his Desert Lab. He devised a “light canvas-covered redwood frame-work resting on massive stone masonry that belonged to the mountain slopes around the property”. It was his first time to use desert construction materials.

He used a trial and error form of building. He built a wall and if it fell down, he would reconstruct until the wall held it’s form. He never tired of trying new experiments with new material. He had to use steel instead of redwood because it could not adapt to the desert elements. The desert was dry and the redwood splintered.

Taliesin Quartzite (Carol Kubota)

3. Ship in the Desert

Frank Lloyd Wright spent time on ships going back and forth to Europe and Asia. He traveled to Europe with his girlfriend, Mamah Bouton Bothwick.

She was murdered by a disgruntled employee when he set fire to Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

He was also able to escape his creditors while sailing across the ocean. There were no cell phones at the time.

A Ship in the Desert (Carol Kubota)

4. The Apprentices built Taliesin for Mr. Wright

Mr. Wright had between fifteen to thirty apprentices working without pay. Some of his detractors referred to it as slavery. The apprentices stayed for four to five months, others came and never left.

They worked in the shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright and few well known architects emerged from his group. The apprentices paid up to $1,100.00 per year for room and board.

There are three senor apprentices in their early nineties living on campus.

Apprentices working (Taken in KIVA room by Carol Kubota)

5. The School of Architecture at Taliesin

Taliesin West is the home to the School of Architecture at Taliesin. It is the smallest school of Architecture in the United States, thirty -forty students per year.

The students attend classes from October to May and return to Spring Green for summer classes.

The school offers a three year Masters Program in Architecture. It is small, experimental, and focused on learning by doing. It became fully accredited in 1987.

School of Architecture at Taliesin (Carol Kubota)

6. A collector of Asian art

Frank Lloyd was know for being one of the biggest collectors of Asian art in the 1920 -1930. Much of his collection is now housed with the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City.

Asian art had a big impact on the design of his buildings. Taliesin West brings out both the Asian and Southwest influence that inspired Mr. Right.

Mr. Wrights apprentices acquired twenty four Asian pieces in Chinatown, San Francisco. Their heads were chopped off along with their arms and noses. These pieces were placed in areas of transition on the property of Taliesin West.

Asian Transition with red plaque (Carol Kubota)

The red plaque has the signature of Mr. Wright. There are twenty-seven around the USA. Mr. Wright handed them out to people who were enthusiastic about the work he had performed in building their home. He not only built their home and their furniture, he told them where to place the furniture. They were told to never move it.

Those are the people awarded the special red signature plaque.

7. The Garden Room

The Garden Room has a view of the mountains and the desert scenery.

It was the place of entertainment. Mr. Wright required that his female apprentices wear evening gowns and the males wear three piece suits when he entertained clients in the Garden Room. They paraded around with the snacks and drinks serving the many famous clients who visited Mr. Wright.

When the Garden Room was first built, there were no windows. The roof was covered with canvas which was removed when they packed up to move back to Wisconsin.

Frank Lloyd Wright was the first to create a Great Room. The Garden Room is a Great Room, a place to entertain his clients.

The Garden Room (Carol Kubota)

8. Mr. Wright’s Office

The office was the the first building on campus.

The office didn’t have windows for almost five years. When the Wrights left town the dust storms and small animals would leave a mess that had to be cleaned up when they returned. Mrs. Wright suggested they add windows. The other buildings began to get windows soon after.

The Guggenheim Museum and Grady Gammage Auditorium on Arizona State University’s campus along with many private homes were designed in this room.

The design in the background was submitted by Mr. Wright in 1957 to the city of Phoenix as a replacement for the current capital building. It never happened. He was ninety years old at the time.

The six sided chairs were designed for the first Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

The round back chairs were designed for the Midway Gardens outside of Chicago that was closed down in the 1920’s because of prohibition.

9. Shining Brow

Taliesin means Shining Brow. Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t believe one should build on top of a mountain, but in the brow of the mountain.

The building at Taliesin can’t be seen until the gate is in view. This was part of the organic architectural design of Mr. Wright.

The logo for Taliesin is in the shape of a whirling arrow on the petroglyph in front of the entrance to the office. Mr. Wright noticed that the logo is in the shape of two hands clasping together in a welcome sign. There are five petroglyphs placed around the campus. All of them were found on the property.

Logo on the left symbolizing a welcome sign (Carol Kubota)

10. Desert Shelters

Students of the School of Architecture live as the apprentices long before them in desert shelters. There are sixty-four of them and students choose which one is going to be there home for six months. The shelters are built with the same materials used by the apprentices, quartzite, sand, glass, redwood or steel, and canvas.

There is no electricity, plumbing, or drinking water. The students come into the locker area to shower and use the bathroom. Many of the students have installed solar panels to help them charge their cell phones and other electronic gadgets.

Students are required to remodel one of the shelters for their thesis statement .

A student shelter with a fireplace (Carol Kubota)
Another student shelter (Carol Kubota)
Student shelter (Carol Kubota)
The party shelter (Carol Kubota)

11. The Dinner Bell

The dinner bell rings at 12:30 for lunch and 6:30 p.m. for dinner. Students and those who reside on campus eat together in the dining room.

Dinner Bell (Carol Kubota)

Taliesin West is a unique place to visit. You can take photos, sit on the furniture, and admire the scenery. Tours are given everyday with reservations.

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