Five facts about Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright designed his buildings to fit in the landscape. That is true at Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed his buildings to fit in the landscape. That is true at Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Well water still keeps Taliesin West hydrated. The well is 500 feet below the surface.

Well water still keeps Taliesin West hydrated. The well is 500 feet below the surface.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a giant of a man. He might have been only about 5-foot-8 but his genius at architecture and his gigantic personality are the stuff of legend.

Visit Taliesin West — where FLW founded his school of architecture and where students still study architecture in a masters program — and you’ll learn lots about the famous architect.

1. Frank was a genius. 

In the expansive living room, a set of bells hangs from the massive fireplace.

In the expansive living room, a set of bells hangs from the massive fireplace. You can buy earrings that resemble them in the bookstore.

The tour leader will tell you this at every turn. And he or she will tell you why. It’s a story everyone should hear. He had great ideas about architecture’s place in Nature (he always capitalized the N.) He created places of great majesty and places that celebrated the landscape around them. Talliesin West is certainly one of these great places.

2. Taliesin West doesn’t offer house tours. But….

Stop at Taliesin in the springtime and see the orchid tree in bloom over the drafting studio (which is not part of the tour.)

Stop at Taliesin in the springtime and see the orchid tree in bloom over the drafting studio (which is not part of the tour.)

But for an hour (the Panorama Tour), 90 minutes (the Insights Tour) or two hours (the Night Tour), you’ll see some extraordinary rooms, great stone fireplaces and plenty of his favorite color, red. You’ll pass by the drafting room (the architecture students would prefer not to be peered at), and take a seat in the living room, the cabaret and the theatre. You can see FLW’s bedroom and aluminum bathroom, too.

Frank Lloyd Wright had a mind that worked overtime and late into the night. He usually took a nap before tea time on this bed in his room overlooking the garden.

Frank Lloyd Wright had a mind that worked overtime and late into the night. He usually took a nap before tea time on this bed in his room overlooking the garden.

I’ve taken all three tours. An hour isn’t enough but it’s fine if your time is short. The Insights Tour takes you pretty much everywhere and I thought the most informative. The Night Tour gives visitors a chance to see how FLW lit Taliesin West. Frank, you must remember, designed everything and came up with some pretty extraordinary lighting. On a return visit (October 2015) the tours included a brief and quiet stop inside the architecture students’ studio. We stood where FLW once had his own desk. I was impressed.

Sculpture by Heloise Krista graces the gardens and the sculpture garden.

Sculpture by Heloise Krista graces the gardens and the sculpture garden.

3. Art is architecture and there’s plenty of art at Taliesin West, too.

Everywhere you look, art lovers, you’ll see art. A large chunk of it is, of course, the sweeping horizontal and slanted lines of Taliesin West itself. But Frank filled the gardens with sculpture and created a sculpture
garden with the delicate work of Heloise Crista. The artist came as a fellow in 1949 (as did Carl Sandberg and Georgia O’Keeffe, among others). Unlike other fellows, Crista is still there. We caught of glimpse of the artist on our recent visit.

4. Bring money when you come. 

Even the bookstore — hidden behind the fountain — fades into its natural surroundings. You have to stop here for tour tickets, even if you ordered them online.

Even the bookstore — hidden behind the fountain — fades into its natural surroundings. You have to stop here for tour tickets, even if you ordered them online.

If you are a lover of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work (of course you are or why would you come all the way out here?), you’ll need to stop in Anneliese’s Bookstore. That’s where you register for your tour. But if you are like me, you’ll be coveting the art books, the stained glass,
the t-shirts, the ceramics, sculptures and even jewelry.

FLW was furious when electricity poles spoiled the view of the valley from his dining room. He tried to stop the work and when that failed, he moved the dining room so it faced the mountains. That'll show 'em, Frank.

FLW was furious when electricity poles spoiled the view of the valley from his dining room. He tried to stop the work and when that failed, he moved the dining room so it faced the mountains. That’ll show ’em, Frank.

5. Stop to smell the flowers and take in the view.

One of the reasons FLW chose this location was its site beside the mountains with an expansive view of what was then dinky little Scottsdale and Phoenix. He bought up some 600 acres so he’d always have that view. And he fought with the utility company when power lines obscured his view. Thanks, Frank, it’s a spectacular sight to see. Both the interiors and exteriors.

1n 180,000-piece Lego model of Taliesin is part of the tour — for the time being, at least.

1n 180,000-piece Lego model of Taliesin is part of the tour — for the time being, at least.

One more thing: It’s hot as an oven out here. Wear your sunscreen. Take advantage of the red umbrellas offered even if rain isn’t forecast. Drink plenty of water. Even the 90-minute tour can wear you out in this heat.

I always come to Taliesin West when I’m in the Phoenix area. I know the story but I never get tired of FLW’s spectacular architecture on this, his western “Shining Brow.”

© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

While we were visiting, the bell called architecture students to lunch.

While we were visiting, the bell called architecture students to lunch.

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