Inside Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West

We’ve just returned from a visit to Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, and thought we’d share some of the highlights with you.

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In 1937, architect Frank Lloyd Wright began building a winter home/studio in Scottsdale, Arizona, using the commission he earned from Fallingwater.

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Wright chose the name of the Welsh bard Taliesin, whose name means “shining brow.” Wright built Taliesin West on the brow of the hillside, rather than at the top, so it would appear to have risen naturally from the landscape.

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Taliesin West was intended to function as a camp, so at first, there were no glass windows, only canvas panels. Glass was out of place, Wright believed, as there aren’t any flat, shiny surfaces in the desert.

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Abstract “icicles” descend from the eaves. Wright’s primary home in Wisconsin, called Taliesin, had plenty of the real thing.

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Initially, the main structure was designed to capture views of the valley. When power lines went up and development spoiled the pristine view, Wright wanted to leave. His wife disagreed, so Wright decided to turn his back on the valley, focusing instead on the McDowell Mountains behind the structure.

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Inspired by the shape of a boat, Wright designed a structure with a “wheelhouse” at the top (above, right)…

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…and here, the prow.

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Wright challenged himself to hide doorways, like this small entrance to the living room.

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Wright’s designs were often manipulative, evident here in the living room. Fixed banquettes along the walls forced guests to sit where he wanted and to look at what he wanted them to see. Wright didn’t allow much space for the display of art on the walls of his buildings because, of course, his architecture was all the art one needed.

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Low ceilings forced guests to sit, which controlled their views of the gardens outside. Wright’s uncomfortable “Origami” chairs said, “You aren’t going to stay here long.”

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The only store-bought chair in the roomâand the only comfortable oneâwas Wright’s own. Hmmm.

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A tiny utilitarian bathroom, clad in aluminum siding, reflects Wright’s “Get in and get out” policy.

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Wright liked the idea of having food, wine, song and dance in one space, so he decided to replicate a cabaret at Taliesin West. Bench seating was angled so that if you sat the “Wright way”âcrossing your left leg over your right and extending your right arm over the back of the benchâyou’d be in the perfect position for movie-viewing. One of Wright’s many pianos sits in an alcove atop a “drum” that carries sound out and back. The acoustics are so good in here, in fact, that a whisper from the front can be heard at the back.

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Wright believed that if a roof didn’t leak, the architect wasn’t pushing the envelope enough. At Taliesin West, he seems to have pushed so far that even wildlife, from rattlesnakes to pack rats to squirrels (pictured here in the theater), can find a way inside.

To learn more about Taliesin West, click here.

Categories: Architecture & Interiors, ML Recommends, Mountain Living, Travel