The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York). All rights reserved. Color photos by Andrew Pielage.
Atop the mountains in North Scottsdale is a sprawling property with sweeping views and captivating architecture. Once the winter residence of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Taliesin West has been a point of interest in the area since it was built in 1937.
Wright decided he wanted a more permanent winter residence in Arizona, and he acquired some acreage of raw, rugged desert in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale. Here he and the Taliesin Fellowship began the construction of Taliesin West as a winter camp, a bold new endeavor for desert living where he tested design innovations, structural ideas and building details that responded to the dramatic desert setting. An interesting point is that Wright and the fellowship established migration patterns between Wisconsin and Arizona, which the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture continues to this day.
It is easy to revel in the appearance of the organic architectural approach to the buildings at Taliesin West. It is deeply connected to the desert in many facets and was built and maintained almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it among the most personal of his creations.
Today, the School of Architecture at Taliesin (formerly the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture) builds architects of the future by offering comprehensive study toward a professional Master of Architecture degree. The program is designed for students who thrive in a multifaceted environment focusing on rigorous design, critical thinking and hands-on learning.
Students who are privileged to study at the campus can take direction from the 70-year career Wright left behind. He became a master of his craft, creating no less than 12 of the Architectural Record’s 100 most important buildings of the century. Wright’s houses, offices, churches, schools, skyscrapers, hotels and museums are as diverse and ingenious as he was.
Preservation is at the heart of everything the Wright Foundation does. They are committed to thorough preservation of Taliesin West, which includes significant collections of art, artifacts, furnishings, prototypes, personal effects and more. Along with such thoughtful steps, Taliesin West encourages visitors from around the world to take a tour of the property and celebrate the life and work of such a creative legend. Taliesin West is open to the public for a broad range of themed tours, as well as summer workshop programs for children that tap into the diverse aspects of architecture and design, from photography to building a dream space.
With an impressive history and rich future ahead, Taliesin West is a mainstay in the community that offers design truly fit for the desert that inspired it. As Wright put it, “The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built.”
1. Historical View of Taliesin West from 1937 when it was first built.
2. The Drafting Room is utilized today by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The school was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1982. It was from this room that Wright designed such famous landmarks as the Guggenheim and ASU Gammage.
3. The view at Taliesin West was critical to its success. In the 1940s, Wright waged a battle against overhead power lines on aesthetic grounds. In the late 1940s when power lines appeared within the view of Taliesin West, Wright wrote President Truman demanding they be buried; it was a losing battle. So, he “turned his back on the valley,” moving the entrance to the rear of the main building.
4. In 2008, the U.S. National Park Service submitted Taliesin West along with nine other Frank Lloyd Wright properties to a tentative list for World Heritage Status.
5. The Future: The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is dedicated to preserving Taliesin West for future generations and inspiring society through an understanding and experience of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas, architecture and design.