Scottsdale Tour TALIESIN WEST Review – Seeing the Landscape Through Frank Lloyd Wright’s Eyes

When it came, he felt a need to go…

It was a telephone pole.

It spoiled the vista from his favorite spot in Taliesin West to see the Sonoran Desert sprawling beyond.

It sent him to Washington DC and on a campaign to ban such poles and put them underground to preserve pristine views and beauty.

To say that Wright’s effort to ban telephone polls was for naught is to say the least of it.

What would this architect born a few years after the Civil War’s end make of the urban-suburban sprawl that is Phoenix and Scottsdale today?

Scottsdale TALIESEN WEST

Now in Exurb Sprawl

Blemished and blighted though he might find it, this favorite spot view at Taliesin West remains relatively unobscured, by today’s standards. Your tour guide needs to prod you to look at it though, because your fascination with the Taliesin structures will keep you looking in another direction. For our docent this time—a repeat visit-- the main point of interest was Wright’s geometric and mathematical prowess reflected in the designs.

Different docents tell the tale differently but you can expect that on any Taliesin West or other Frank Lloyd Wright related tour—this being our eighth —you sign on for Frank Lloyd Wright groupie status for a few hours. The enthusiastic docents make it so.

Bucket List for Many

For Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts or any serious student of American architectural history Taliesin West is a must-see stop for your bucket list.

Wright, like so many others, had come to the Scottsdale area when his doctor warned his lungs couldn’t withstand another Midwest winter. It wasin the midst of the Great Depression, when Wright, with family in tow, led his yearly winter trek with his architectural fellows (students) to build Taliesen West, later declared a National Historic Landmark in 1982.

You imagine the white tents the students lived in and how they toiled with hand tools to make the walls. You marvel at the tales at how their work clothes came off and tux and gowns were donned for formal dinners or music, dance and other cultural performances in the midst of the desert. You learn that Wright played piano by ear and described architecture as “frozen music”. You likely appreciate this more in situ than simply reading this quote upon the page.

You ogle fine Asian ceramics here and there—even outside—that Wright collected and hear of his many (90+/-) automobiles too.   You peek into studios where students are working to this day. You admire the kiva (ceremonial meeting place) and lighting innovations (cove, inverted, floor) and other innovations both patented and not, and get to enjoy sitting in his extraordinary theater space where films were shown and his friend John Wayne might have made a live appearance.

You forget that every entranceway in the world doesn’t compress and then expand space as they do in Wright’s buildings. You begin thinking about whether Wright’s favorite Cherokee Red color would look good on your doors and walls too.

Scottsdale TALIESEN WEST
A quote from Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS juxtaposed to a Native American petroglyph, made a centerpiece as an homage to the Ancient Hohokam
Scottsdale TALIESEN WEST
With the right docent, you begin to pay attention to the geometry of shadows created by the structures, as Wright himself did
Scottsdale TALIESEN WEST
The pond was not only an aesthetic choice, but also to keep a ready supply of water nearby in the event of fire

Legacy Beyond Taliesin West’s Walls

The best part of this tour might actually be beyond the Taliesen West walls. More than one luxury hotel in Scottsdale claims Frank Lloyd Wright as its inspiration or bona fides of being designed by a former student turned detractor.

Arguably the most famous former student of Wright’s, Paolo Soleri, created Cosanti not far from Taliesen West.   While some think of Scottsdale as a go-to place for golf or baseball’s spring training, architecture might be the better reason to put it on your map.

Be like Frank. Don’t forget to turn away from the Taliesin structures and look beyond into the desert.

Scottsdale TALIESEN WEST
The signature Wright-styled furniture and other interior design is not unlike what you see in Wright's Oak Park home or Taliesen in Wisconsin
Scottsdale TALIESEN WEST
The hands clasping symbol in this ancient Hohokam petroglyph became the Taliesen emblem
Scottsdale TALIESEN WEST
Cutaways for light are made with geometric precision. On the tour we learn that Wright's fascination with math and geometry started before he was five years old
Scottsdale TALIESEN WEST
Here, the hands clasping logo of petroglyph origin that Wright chose to describe "fellowship" for his living laboratory architecture school

For more information on Taliesin West visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation website.

Meanwhile—Copyright laws preclude publishing it here—but do visit Youtube to see the TV Show Episode of What’s My Line, when Frank Lloyd Wright was a guest. His bearing and demeanor tells it all…

When

SEPTEMBER

Sat – Thurs: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm

Fri: 8:30 am – 8:00 pm

OCTOBER – MAY

Daily: 8:30 am-6:00 pm

JUNE, JULY, AUGUST

Taliesin West is closed for tours Tuesday and Wednesday during the summer. Store is open by appointment only, call 480.627.5378.

Sat, Sun, Mon, Thurs: 8:30 am – 3:30 pm

Fri: 8:30am – 3:30 pm; 5: 00 pm – 7:30pm

Where

Taliesin West

12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd

Scottsdale, AZ 85259

Tickets

$26+, with discounts or students, children, seniors and active military

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