Ever since my husband Dave and I read Nancy Horan’s novel Loving Frank we’ve been interested in the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The book tells the story of Wright’s long time relationship with Mamah Borthwick Cheney. On a visit to Chicago, we toured Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park which he built for his first wife Kitty Tobin and their six children.
So it was only natural we would want to visit Taliesin West near Phoenix. We went with our friends Rudy and Sue. Taliesin West is the winter site for Wright’s architectural school, and was a home for Wright and his third wife Olgivanna and their daughters Iovanna and Svetlana.
Frank Lloyd Wright was a devotee of organic architecture, the idea that buildings should be integrated with the natural world around them. He built the walls and fences of Taliesin West out of local desert rocks placed in wooden frames and filled with concrete.
Falling Water, a house Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the Kaufman family in Pennsylvania in 1936 is the most stunning example of his organic architecture philosophy. It was built partially over a waterfall. The Smithsonian Institute says it is one of the 28 buildings in the world you should see before you die.
Our guide at Taliesin West reminded us many times that the money Wright earned building Falling Water and his subsequent fame–he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in 1938– was the reason he had the money to develop Taliesin West, which is situated on a 600 acre site in the Sonoran Desert.
Another way Wright’s organic philosophy is evident at Taliesin West is the fact that he preserved and featured rocks with petroglyphs probably done by the Hohokum people in the design of the site. In fact the logo for Taliesin West is based on a petroglyph design found on rocks at the site.
Wright’s obsession with the ‘view’ and the natural surroundings of his house influenced the ongoing design of Taliesin West. Here Rudy and Sue are standing at what used to be the ‘prow’ of the dining room of the complex. Our guide is explaining that when the power company began erecting poles and stringing electrical wires across the horizon Wright was incensed.
After his attempts to stop the hydro company were thwarted, he ordered the dining room torn down and rebuilt at the back of the house, where if the guests were seated, they had a great view of the mountains.
Here is another example of how Frank Lloyd Wright blended his design with the natural surroundings. In the cabaret theatre at Taliesin West he has carved a niche in the rock wall for a piano. Frank Lloyd Wright loved pianos and according to our guide owned eighteen of them. Yesterday I did a post about Steinway Pianos and I’ve learned that coincidentally Frank Lloyd Wright once had his office on the 11th floor of the Steinway Piano Building in Chicago and I remember seeing a baby grand Steinway built into the wall in his Oak Park Home.
The pool at Taliesin West was there for practical purposes. At the time the site was developed there was no telephone service and the nearest fire station was nearly twenty miles away. The original Taliesin which is located in Wisconsin had twice been set on fire once by a crazed servant and another time by an electrical problem. Wright was very conscious about protecting his properties from fire.
This round door in a fence at Taliesin West is another Asian influence.
In the living room at Taliesin West, we got to sit in the Origami Chairs designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
We toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s bedroom with its day bed and night bed separated by a partition wall and………
and we peeked into his industrial aluminium plated bathroom
These sculptures were done by Heloise Crista. She was only one of many artists who lived, worked and visited Taliesin West. Georgia O Keeffe who I wrote about in a Hawaii post was also a Taliesin West visitor.
Frank Lloyd Wright died when he was 91. He was still working full-time when he passed away. There were 166 projects in process sitting on his desk when he died. The last decade of his life was his most productive.He did a third of his life’s work in that period.
Inspirational stuff for someone like me who has just retired and isn’t even sixty. There is still plenty of time to accomplish all kinds of amazing things.
PS. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and so Dave bought me these beautiful earrings based on a Frank Lloyd Wright window design as a gift in the Taliesin West Gift Shop.