Guest Blog: Modern Architecture and Design Society (MA+DS)
In Scottsdale, AZ, about a half-hour east of Phoenix is a living piece of the American Modernism movement – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. Conceived as a “winter residence” by Wright after a nearly fatal case of pneumonia (and one too many winters spent in Wisconsin) Taliesin West was constructed almost solely by Wright himself and his apprentices using the materials of the Arizona desert – wooden forms, rock, and a cement mixture made of the abundant sand.
Now home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the public is free to visit anytime. And perhaps even more interesting, it still functions as a working architecture studio and houses the School of Architecture and Taliesin. That means that that students, architects, and instructors are still drawing inspiration from the place where the legendary Wright designed some of his most famous buildings (including New York’s Guggenheim Museum) and that means you can stand in the rooms where almost a century of Architecture history has been made. Which is exactly what we did!
The site isn’t what one might expect – even if you’re familiar with the desert-ensconced modernism of Palm Springs in the California desert, this is something entirely different. Taliesin West isn’t is the desert – Taliesin West IS the desert – Hewn from the rock and sand of the Sonoran desert, the structure is a living, breathing piece of the Earth from which it was created.
What this means is that Taliesin West is, above all, a naturalistic structure, and that’s a theme that even a casual observer of Wright (and others inspired by his pioneering work) can see not only there, but in his use of materials throughout his other structures, as well as those of other pre-war and mid-century masters.
All of this is to say that visiting Taliesin West is well beyond visiting a museum – it’s an experience that still rings with authenticity. Looking at, and touching the rock and sand that form the walls, and seeing the original earth-toned fabrics and furniture in the great room where Wright hosted gatherings gives the visitor a connection that most other places simply can’t. You can easily imagine great gatherings filling the massive main room, or a concert being performed in one of the two theatres. And all of this was Wright’s home. It’s truly a way to forge a connection or an understanding far beyond what one can gather from a typical museum or display experience.
If you love Wright’s work – if you’ve been to Fallingwater and if you want to see the spiritual opposite in the desert – you certainly owe it to yourself to visit Taliesin West and become a part of the desert, as Wright did in his years there.
Visiting information: https://franklloydwright.org/taliesin-west/tickets-tours/
The Modern Architecture + Design Society produces architecture and design events across North America.
Photo Credit: Jamie Leasure