While Sonja was in town, the two of us also went to see Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architecture school in the desert. Taliesen West is a gorgeous complex of buildings including Wright’s bedroom and study, a den for parties, a theater, a cafeteria, a drafting room for students, and more. When Wright began building it in 1937, the concept was camping. All of the structures were designed to be easily constructed and deconstructed from year to year, so he would build it up each winter and take it down each summer when he migrated back to Wisconsin. Eventually, though, the fixtures became permanent, and now you can visit any time. Taliesen West currently serves as headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the winter campus for the School of Architecture.
Wright followed his own philosophy of organic architecture and felt deeply inspired by the desert: “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.”
Our tour was excellent, and I don’t want to give any spoilers because it’s way more fun to see it in person and learn about the space from within it. Without getting too deep, here are a few snapshots.
Wright found several Native American petroglyphs on the land, and one of the images on the rocks stood out to him because it looked like hands clasping each other. He adopted it as the symbol of Taliesen West, and it is officially known as the whirling arrow. You can see the petroglyph at the beginning of the tour and Wright’s interpretations of it in the details throughout the space.
This was one of our favorite rooms on the tour, an event space meant for entertaining clients and guests. Turns out Wright loved to party (and he always wore a suit, sometimes even sleeping in one, just in case a client stopped by unannounced). He made all the furniture in this room himself, including the lovely origami chair, so called because it could be constructed from a single piece of plywood.
Another fun Taliesen West fact: Wright designed many of his most famous buildings in the drafting room there, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. (He also made less than successful designs there, including a large spire he envisioned for the Arizona State Capitol grounds. It was rejected and remained unbuilt until 2004; now it sits in a Scottsdale strip mall.)
Taliesen West offers many different kinds of tours, including a nighttime walk that looks beautiful. Also, it is perched on a field with lots of saguaro – so classic desert photo opps abound. Just sayin, come visit me out here, and I will take you.