This Friday's tour takes us to Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, AZ. This is one of the places I would love to visit. I've only been to Arizona twice, both times as a flight layover in Phoenix.
Taliesin literally means "shining brow" in Welsh, the nationality of Wright's ancestors. Taliesin, Wright's Summer home in Wisconsin sits on the "brow" of a hill overlooking the valley below while Taliesin West is located on a broad mesa. Taliesin West was selected by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as one of 17 buildings nation-wide that exemplify Wright's contribution to American architecture.
Master architect and urban designer, Frank Lloyd Wright established his winter residence at Taliesin West, Wright designed it as a Winter home and school for his students. It was built entirely by his students.
It's Walls are concrete, but of a special kind: native boulders, red, yellow and gray, were laid in rough wooden forms and cement poured over. Above these colorful, variously tapered walls are the great redwood trusses which support canvas-covered roof flaps. Glass is unnecessary, as the canvas admits a softly diffused light. This structure seems to grow organically from the rough soil around it.
Wright and his students kept getting interrupted by visitors, so Wright told his apprentices to start charging them $5. He thought that would discourage them. It didn't. Gawkers kept appearing at his distinctive Scottsdale retreat. They just showed up brandishing $5 bills.
Fifty years after Wright's death, Taliesin West is still something wonderful. Nestled at the foot of the McDowell Mountains, some of its edges are a little frayed now as it looks out on a sea of cookie-cutter homes. But Wright's innovate retreat retains its distinct identity even as it blends with the wild desert around it. Follow its rough-hewn breezeways into open spaces of gently diffused light, and you'll sense the work of a man who understood both the power of nature and the potential of man-made space.
Taliesin West isn't for everybody. But if you enjoy the subtle ways architecture can modulate your feelings - or if you like building backwards from a home's personal touches into the lives of those who once lived here.
Taliesin West is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week, with nighttime tours Thursdays and Fridays that begin 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at 12621 Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale. Tours range from $27 to $43 per person, with discounts for students, seniors and active military personnel. For more information, call (480) 860-2700 or visit www.franklloydwright.org.
Click the photo above for a great Flickr set of Taliesin West. Click HERE for a Taliesin Cluster on Flickr. For a visual tour try Architecture: Archinect Travels Episode 3 . Taliesin West info begins about three minutes in.