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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.