A visit to Taliesin West

Taliesin West is the Arizona branch of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s school based in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Wright came to Arizona in 1937–while in his 60s–to establish this experiment in the desert to teach students about architecture.

Wright’s students built Taliesin West. He wanted them to live in the open air to learn about building architecture that reflected and complimented nature.

One of the things to know about desert architecture is that it is an icon. There is nothing like a forest or verdant landscape to distract from human creation. That said, he was very keen on using indigenous materials to integrate architecture and nature. (Taliesin itself means “shining brow” in Welsh, the language of Wright’s mother.)

The rock with Native American symbols was the inspiration for Wright’s personal logo, which you can see it in the symbol on the tower and on the gate to Taliesin West. He used it as a signature for his studio on his homes.

Wright was influenced by Japanese prints and design for many years after living in Japan while designing the Imperial Palace hotel. (Unfortunately, the hotel was demolished in the 1970s to make room for something benign and uninteresting. It had survived two earthquakes and would have made it through the most recent one, too.)

Wright worked with many artists and sculptors. The original sculptures on site are the work of Heloise Crista–now in her 70s–who studied architecture with Wright but became a sculptor. I love the spirit of her pieces and how they show the inner soul of the person. Some were influenced by art deco, and others were more organic. The Asian sculptures on display came from a sale that Wright found in San Francisco. I saw almost an identical dragon sculpture in Japan. The sculpture garden at Taliesin makes for a wonderful spot in the sun. Notice how wonderful the sun reflects the highlights.

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