Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin West

We decided to stop in Scottsdale, Arizona for two reasons: to visit Taliesin West and the Musical Instrument Museum.  Boy were we ever so pleased with our decision to come to Scottsdale.  We stayed at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park based on some others recommendations and really loved it.  While our scheduled attractions were easily 30-45 minutes away, this park is a gem and well worth the drive.  A park review and post on the Musical Instrument Museum will come later but just know they are both HIGH on our list of great places.

Taliesin West was the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright who resided there from 1937 until his death in 1959.  The property became a laboratory for Wright’s designs and concepts and it morphed from desert sand and rocks into his personal winter home, studio, and architectural campus.  Wright first moved to the desert upon advice from his doctor who felt the warm sunny dry desert would be more soothing than the harsh Wisconsin winters where his other home, Taliesin, is located.

Today, Taliesin West is still alive.  It is home to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the buildings are open for tours and events.  We were amazed at just how many people come to tour the complex!  There are many different levels of tours ranging from $24 for an hour-long tour or $60 for a three-hour tour so you may want to look online before you come.  We opted for an hour and a half tour and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Our guide was a retired architect who was a true admirer and study of Wrights work which made for a great tour.
The fireplace in Wright's drafting studio was a
focal point. 

Our guide explained Wrights “Organic” philosophy and belief that Arizona “needs its own architecture” and one needs to live in the environment in which the house was built.  So much so that architectural students were required (and some still choose) to live in tents in the desert while they were designing and constructing buildings.  Wright advocated using the materials readily available from the surroundings rather than importing them and this is clearly evident.  Students were responsible for collecting material of rocks, sand, and wood that were used in the construction of Taliesin West. 

At the cost of approximately $10,000 a well was dug on the desert property.  The triangular pool was placed in this location for numerous reasons, one of which being a source of water in case of fire as the drafting studio and kitchen were located nearby. 
The patio and courtyard were commonly used for cocktail parties and entertaining.  The  angular  lines are common elements of Wrights architectural style.  
Taliesin West was constantly changing and Wright continually altered and added to the complex of buildings.  Even after buildings were completed, Wright would walk through a room and instruct students with hammers and chisels to alter the design in order to fix a problem or improve lighting.  When a power company installed massive power lines in front of his prized view, Wright altered the living room ceiling and walls so that one’s eyes focused on the mountain behind the house instead of the eye sore.
Wright loved to entertain and built this dinner theater.  The students used hammers and chisels to excavate the desert earth until Wright gave them sticks of dynamite.  The room has no right angles in order to prevent echo.  It is slanted upwards and widened in order to broadcast the sound from the front stage. 
This is another example of Wrights modifications...while he loved playing the piano  everyone else hated moving it.  He instructed the students to chisel out  an alcove which he designed to be acoustically perfect to propel the sound perfectly.
This dark red door in the center of the photo is the entrance into the "garden room."  One of the concepts embraced by Wright was "embrace and release."  You would be embraced by a small space and then released into the space Wright wanted you to be in.  So you walked through a small door and hallway into a wide and bright room.
This is the room you end up in. (Photo courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
The school of architecture offers bachelors and masters program and admits only 35 students per year.
Wright believed in indentured education meaning the students who studied under him would live and work on the property as a community.  That philosophy still exists today for the students who studied there. 
Wright was so prolific that he had a desk in his bedroom.
One of five pools on the property.
A visit to Taliesin West is not just a house tour, but an insight into an architectural genius whose craft has left a significant impact world-wide.  It is easy to see why he is recognized as the “greatest American architect of all-time” by the American Institute of Architects.  He was drawing and designing up until his death at 91 and was credited as having designed more than 1,000 structures and completed 500 works.  (For more information on Frank Lloyd Wright click here.) 


  1. Glad you liked the McDowell area. I really miss Scottsdale AZ - we lived there for 7 years and I can say it was the best place I've ever lived!

    1. We remembered your recommendation and how you loved this area. Too bad we only had a few days....we are off to Quartzsite. What a change?


We love hearing from you, so please drop us a comment