Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Taliesin West, Part 1

You may not have heard of Taliesin West but I am sure you have heard of Frank Lloyd Wright — probably the best known architect ever. His popularity even overlapped into popular culture — note the Simon and Garfunkel song from 1970, So Long Frank Lloyd Wright. Taliesin West is Wright's winter home and architecture school located just outside Scottsdale at the foot of the McDowell mountains. Wright began coming to this area in 1933 and in 1937, he purchased the land for some $3.50 an acre. Additional land was added and subtracted over time but the property still consists of about 500 acres. The architecture school survives with students spending part of the year here and part of the year in Taliesin in Wisconsin.

The photo shows the monolith and fountain that greet the visitor to Taliesin West.

At several locations on the property, including this one at the entrance, one can find petroglyphs. The guide apologized that the early students moved the rocks to locations where they could be enjoyed by visitors, students and staff. Today that would be a BIG no-no.

Just outside the visitor's center is a pair of sculptures of Native Americans. The angular lines look so much in the Frank Lloyd Wright style. As you will see, there is a lot of sculpture on display, most by the architecture students or temporary artists-in-residence.

I decided to take the "Behind the Scenes" Tour since this was my second visit to Taliesin West — I thought it might be interesting to see some of the places not on the shorter tour. It did not disappoint.

The tour started with Wright's office — the exterior is shown here. It is important to note that Wright conceived Taliesin West as a winter camp rather than a permanent campus. Thus the original structures were decidedly temporary and had to be rebuilt each winter when the students arrived.

Over time, Wright and the students began to make the structures more permanent. You will note both in the office and throughout the facility that the walls were constructed of rock embedded in concrete. The rock, of course, was simply picked up from this desert property and carried to where construction was taking place.

It is also important to note that Wright's design philosophy was to incorporate the structure into the landscape. His office certainly reflects that.

Inside Wright's office, you can see that the rock/concrete walls were visible both outside and inside. The original roof was simple canvas but later upgraded to Plexiglas over canvas to keep the rain and dust out. Perhaps you cannot tell from the photo but I assure you that the light in here was incredible — a necessity when looking at architectural plans.

Do note the fireplace — a Wright signature architectural feature.

On the other side of the room was a large, low table for reviewing those plans. Interestingly, the sketch against the wall was a Wright proposal for the capital building for the state of Arizona. The powers that be rejected the design and went for a more conventional appearance. Too bad, that would have been an awesome capital building.

One part did see the light of day, the spire was constructed in Scottsdale in 2004 at the corner of Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Scottsdale Road. It sits in a small park surrounded by sculptures by Heloise Crista.

I found an interesting link to photos of an architectural model of Wright's plan. To see it, click here.

Back outside the office, one has to pause and soak up the view. Beautiful!

Nearby is another sculpture. A bird seems to like it too but probably for a different reason.

There are a number of these Asian pieces embedded in concrete and scattered about the campus. They mark certain key places or transitions between areas. Unfortunately, the ceramic sculptures are easily broken thus figures are missing heads or hands or whatever.

Every student was required to share his or her talent. Some students were talented with sculpture, others with music and some with acting.

Just outside the music pavilion is a large collection of sculpture sitting on stands that rotate — so the viewer can see the whole thing.


Here is a close-up of an interesting figure. Note the multiple faces. Does that mean she is an actress and the faces represent different theatrical roles? Your guess is as good as mine.

Last for today is a reclining woman who appears to be very pregnant. Is it time for her delivery? Perhaps.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com