Each year just after Thanksgiving, Frank Lloyd Wright departed Taliesin, his summer home in Spring Green Wisconsin for the warmth of Scottsdale Arizona. The famed architect built Taliesin West in 1937 and journeyed there every winter until his death at age 91. Today, the property houses the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Wright was a consummate entertainer, especially at his winter home where through the years he added a music pavilion, a cabaret theatre and other entertainment venues. Each room harbors a heavy stone fireplace.
Wright marries the land to his living spaces
The various structures that comprise the compound are built of natural materials - wood frames filled with concrete, desert rocks, quartz and large boulders. Wright treasured the area's near-endless horizons and wanted his structures to complement the land.
A dominant shape that's often repeated through the National Historic Landmark is the triangle - found among eaves, frames and various other supports and decorative elements. Wright felt it mimicked the surrounding mountains, along with the desert, forever full of sharp, pointy things.
The property is continually under restoration, including the recent replacement of redwood beams that suffered dry rot. The supports were replaced with Douglas Fir painted red, but increasingly, steel is being used to further strengthen the buildings.
Wright's choices may seem odd to some modern architects
The property's centerpiece is the sloping, airy living room, filled with signature, Wright-designed furniture. The room is suffused with natural light, with one wall sloping dramatically, forcing visitors to sit on angled chairs to enjoy a garden view.
Not all of Wright's choices make sense, including the redwood beams which were known to eventually suffer dry rot in the intense desert heat, and the thirsty, emerald carpet of grass that fronts the property. Visitors may find the property both beautiful, ugly, harsh, stunning and sometimes just wrong - as well as arrogantly, stubbornly very much Wright. The lesson? Damn the critics. Build your vision.
Taliesin West offers numerous public tours of the property, including both private and group tours. The 90-minute signature tour includes all the buildings and special insider access to private spaces enjoyed by the Wrights. A 2-hour night tour includes a working, fire-breathing dragon (one of Wright's exterior decorations). View of tour brochure of the property for more information.