As Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home and school, Taliesin West offers an intimate glimpse of one of the architectural mastermind's greatest structures. Still in use as the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Taliesin West (the original Taliesin, his summer home, is located in Wisconsin) allows visitors to tour a living, working architectural school that still operates very much the way Wright himself intended.
Perched on the brow of a talus-strewn hill ("taliesin" is a Welsh word meaning "shining brow"), the grounds afford a sweeping view of the Sonoran Desert and valley, which has changed quite dramatically since Wright's day, as your guide can tell you. There are several tours to choose from, but the 90-minute "Insights" tour is by far the most popular and offers the chance to visit Wright's personal quarters, which are far more modest than might be expected. Evening tours provide an intimate glimpse of the grounds at night, when the buildings are lit and glow from within.
Wright's ability to meld structure and nature is showcased not only by the design of the buildings but the materials used: All of the structures were built with the rock and sand from the very hillside. Since Taliesin West was built before electricity was available in the area, Wright designed canvas roofs that provided sufficient light to work by. Although the roofing material has since been upgraded to be more permanent, the soft lighting that Wright intended is still evident in the drafting room, where he created the designs for such famous structures as New York's Guggenheim Museum.
Although much of the tours take place inside, there's still a good deal to be seen outside and, this being the desert, it's advised that you wear sunscreen and bring a hat or umbrella, as well as bottled water. As this is a working school and also residence, certain areas are off limits to visitors. Reservations are not required, but it is recommended that you arrive several minutes before a tour starts.
For more info: Taliesin West | 12621 North Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259 (For GPS directions, use 12345 Taliesin Dr. Scottsdale, AZ 85258) | 480-860-2700 ext. 494 or 495 | http://www.franklloydwright.org/