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Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona

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Why Did Frank Lloyd Wright Build Taliesin West?
Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin West

Guided Tour at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West

© 2009 Judy Hedding

Taliesin I was built in 1911 in Wisconsin. The word Taliesin means "a shining brow" perhaps alluding to the scenic location and vista. It was built to be a home, a work place, a school and a cultural center for his students. Wright designed it all, to the last piece of furniture. In 1914 it suffered severe fire damage. Taliesin II was soon built on the same spot but was also damaged by fire, and again rebuilt as Taliesin III.

In 1927 architect Albert Chase McArthur (a former student of Wright’s) asked Wright to help him with the projected construction of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. Wright accepted, came to Phoenix and presented plans based on his unusual architectural principles. There was opposition to the unique design and some compromises were made. Known today as The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, the award winning property describes itself as “the only existing hotel in the world with a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design.”

Taliesin West was planned and built by the master and his disciples. Indigenous materials were used throughout and his students built it, basically by hand. The visitor to Taliesin West is struck by the expanse of the site, the intricate structures built of massive walls fashioned of desert rock embedded in masonry, topped with canvas flaps for ceilings affixed to redwood beams. The structures at Taliesin West are sort of tents, but not tents by virtue of their weight and permanence. The units are arranged at various distances and angles connected by terraces, lawns, pools and stairways. Wright wrote, “Our new desert camp belonged to the Arizona desert as though it had stood there during creation.”

Frank Lloyd Wright/Taliesin West Factoid: In 1937, when Frank Lloyd Wright was 70 years old, he decided to build a winter residence in an undeveloped portion of the Scottsdale desert with a view of the Valley.

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