Monday, April 9, 2012

Architecture in Arizona (Taliesin West)

After graduating from college and moving to the Valley of the Sun I decided I wanted to see some of the architecture in Arizona.  Arizona was new territory to me and I loved getting to see some of the places or designs I studied in school.  Architecture in Arizona definitely has its own look.  One of the places the husband and I wanted to go see was Taliesin West, a Frank Lloyd Wright design.    

Some believe he wasn't always the nicest person and very stubborn in his designs.  While he believed in organic architecture buildings not everything was as functional or comfortable as his clients would like.  Regardless I think a lot of his designs were simply beautiful.  He thought architecture and design should blend in with its natural background drawing and reflecting upon nature's own shapes and colors.  I would be lying if I didn't confess that at first, I wasn't a huge fan of the color palette for architecture in Arizona.  Everything was so brown or orange or red.  I grew up in the heart of the Rocky Mountains where I was surrounded by all sorts of greens.  Mountains were blue.  Plants thrived.  However, I've come to appreciate the beauty of the desert and yes even its red mountains and abundance of cactus.    

Frank used Taliesin West as a school for design.  His school was one where hands on and discovery were encouraged.  Frank Lloyd Wright at some point would have his students living out in nature to understand it on a deeper level.  This is where the original drafting building was located.  Unfortunately we weren't allowed to go inside.  I love these beautiful blue chairs.  The design of his furniture again was organic and reflected its surroundings.  Taliesin West is still used as a school today taking 22 students a year from around the world and based upon it's founders principles and beliefs.  

A student once confronted their mentor debating that there was no way to cool a place down in this barren desert.  If you've spent anytime in Phoenix during the summer you might understand where this student was coming from.  However, this sentiment made Frank Lloyd Wright so mad that he got to work disproving this theory.  The result is the above area known as The Breezeway.  Surprisingly it really was much cooler as we walked through.  

Some may have suspected Frank Lloyd Wright to be a little crazy, especially when he bought the "water rights" where his property was located.  Everyone knows there isn't water to be found in the desert.  Of course now those people are walking with their tails between their legs as Frank soon discovered a well.  I'm sure it was the best $7 he ever spent.

The rock used throughout the property is known as Taliesin Quartzite.  It can only be found within the boundaries of his property.  Each stone was brought down the mountain by hand.  It was one of the ways in which students helped to pay for their room and board.

Finally, Mr. Wright encouraged his students to try new things and develop talents they did not already possess.  One student took up sculptures where they are currently located in a garden on the property.

After this tour I left with a greater appreciation for architecture in Arizona.  So much thought went into the designs that I would be a fool to not see past what I once thought beauty was.


  1. I really enjoyed this post. I've always wanted to visit Sedona and see the beautiful scenery and red soil. Your post made me want to see much more. :)

  2. Oh Sedona is beautiful! If you ever make it that way let me know:)

  3. Great post Sarah, Frank Lloyd Wright has influenced Australian architecture as well particularly in some of the bayside suburbs near where I live.

  4. Thanks for your post Sarah. Rick and I filmed a concert there a few years back. It is quite a place!

  5. I thought that was Frank Lloyd Wright. There is a house or building somewhere about 5 or 6 hours from here, too, that we could have seen one time when we were on vacation. . . in VA, I think. We never did make it there, though.