Taliesin West

16 Apr

As our big extra-curricular activity on our vacation to Scottsdale, we put down the adult beverages and put on more clothes than the bathing suits we lived in to venture out to Taliesin West, the home designed and lived in by Frank Lloyd Wright from 1937 until his death in 1959 at the age of 91.  Taliesin West is also still an accredited functioning school of architecture, offering both BAs and MAs.  Who knew?

And as one might guess, I am a mighty FLW fan.  I am also a huge fan of the Ayn Rand novel The Fountainhead about the stubborn and idealistic architect Howard Roark, based loosely on the character of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Mind you, I don’t count myself amongst the ‘Objectivists’ but I do appreciate the philosophy behind the fictional architecture of Roark and the real architecture of FLW, as it has informed my own thoughts about architecture and design.  (Another great novel about FLW is The Women by T.C. Boyle.  I had no idea what a crazy life he led until I read that book.  Wow.)

The thing that really struck me about Taliesin was the sense that it was in constant evolution, a project that is never really finished.  Kind of like our own house.  If it’s good enough for FLW, it’s good enough for me.  (At least I will keep telling myself that.)  The other thing that one can’t escape when approaching Taliesin West is how much it looks like it belongs to the land, a hallmark of FLW sensibility that the site should dictate the design.

One of the design principles for Taliesin West is the triangle.  The hills behind the building are triangular in shape and as you go through Taliesin, you will see the triangle motif throughout in a variety of ways.

Below is the music room, as the arts were strongly encouraged among the fellows.  Below near the screen is a shape cut out of the wall on the right side that provides perfect acoustics for the room.  Our guide wound up a music box that sounded soft and tinny from where she is standing in the photo.  When she put it in the wall cut-out, the sound magnified in a way I would never have imagined.  It was truly one of the best things I saw (or heard) there.

There is still an artist in residence at Taliesin and she has produced a garden of sculptures that range in subject from the classical to the abstract.

God is in the details.  Look at the triangular shadows along the breezeway.

The belltower for calling the fellows to meals and events.

I fell in-love with this huge orange door to the dining area.

The fireplaces at Taliesin West were amazing.  This is an outdoor one opposite the orange door above.  It was as tall as I am!

Below is FLW’s room and study.  He had two beds, one for napping and one for sleeping at night, separated by a wooden divider.

Below is his wife’s room.  Only one bed for her.  One of the astonishing things about this home of a world famous architect is the scale.  These rooms and the furniture are small.  Objects had to be kept to a minimum.  Makes me wonder how we get back to that small footprint with the modern McMansion mentality.

Another fireplace in what was my favorite room, the Garden room.  Filled with furniture designed by FLW, I love the angles and symmetry.  Triangles everywhere.

All in all, an eye opening experience and I hope to visit more.  If I could see Fallingwater, then I would die happy.  Have you visited any FLW homes? What did you think?


5 Responses to “Taliesin West”

  1. Dana@Mid2Mod April 16, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Fallingwater is on my bucket list too!

  2. Andy Pierce April 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Dana, Alarie and I toured the Pope-Leighey house when we were in DC a couple of years ago… it’s simply an amazing sample of an ideal small suburban home. Similar roof lines to the Robie, and excellent touches throughout like the custom FLW designed modular furniture. Very cool experience:

    I’ve also toured the Hollyhock in Hollywood. That one is a rather large home and is very eccentric… custom furniture, arranged to Wright’s standards (he was caught breaking in and moving the furniture back to the original configuration on two occasions) giant fireplaces and low ceilings in the hallways to force motion.

    I would love to tour more… all in due time.

    • Brandy April 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

      I love the Robie house and I went to Taliesin in Wisconsin. Chicago area was so rich with FLW houses. Taliesin West was SO different though. I loved it. And I also love that he was such an obsessive crazy bugger. You should read that book. Man, oh man. He makes me look totally stable.


      • rrrgonzalez April 17, 2012 at 5:50 am #

        We have been to the Robie house too in Chicago. Most excellent. The windows were very complicated but cool. That whole area has a bunch of FLW which I love.

      • Brandy April 17, 2012 at 9:41 am #

        Hi Rebecca…

        We moved to Seattle from Chicago and I SO miss the architecture there, as I mention in this post.

        Thanks for commenting!

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