Have you ever heard the name of a place and it conjured up an image in your head about what it was or would be like, and then just couldn’t shake it? Such was the case for me when we put Taliesin West on our itinerary for our trip to Phoenix last autumn. From the get go I had it in my head that Taliesin West was a western ghost town and no matter that I then researched and knew it was a Frank Lloyd Wright design I still couldn’t shake the “it’s a western ghost town” feeling. Weird. I know. As you can see it is most decidedly not that at all…
In fact Taliesin West is actually a beautifully designed home and School of Architecture situated in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains just outside Scottsdale, AZ. Originally Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home from 1937 until his death in 1959, it is now the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in addition to the school.
Wright and his architecture students used to visit Arizona back in the1930s, and after a few years of making the trip from his summer home he decided in 1937 to purchase a plot of land that would be the Taliesin West to his Taliesin in Wisconsin. The land he chose is on the southern slope of the mountains and overlooks Paradise Valley which he believed to the the perfect spot for a place of residence, business and learning.
Handcrafted over approximately 20 years by Wright and his apprentices he was determined to have it blend in with its natural surroundings in the desert and was quoted as saying, “Arizona needs its own architecture…Arizona’s long, low, sweeping lines, uptilting planes. Surface patterned after such abstraction in line and color as find “realism” in the patterns of the rattlesnake, the Gila monster, the chameleon, and the saguaro, cholla or staghorn—or is it the other way around—are inspiration enough.”
One look and visitors would have to agree it does indeed live in harmony with its environment. Constructed with native desert rocks and redwood beams with as little concrete as possible I thought the structure was quite beautiful. I can only imagine how long-time fans of Wright’s work must love it when they come to visit, or perhaps some of his other designs are even more beautiful? One day I shall see as I definitely have added more of his sites to my ‘places to visit’ list, and not just because his works have been nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Visitors to the site must take one of their guided tours, but let me tell you they are very interesting! There are several different options to choose from depending on your level of interest and we decided to take the 90 minute “Insights Tour” which is just right for folks that haven’t been long time fans and really want a good introduction to Wright, his life, designs, and his school. For enthusiasts there is a longer behind the scenes tours, then there are shorter tours, a photography tour, a tour at night, and a few others. There really is a tour for everyone to get a look inside and hear the stories especially if you get a guide as enthusiastic and knowledgeable as we did.
On the tour we started in a forecourt area to learn a little about the Wright’s history and how the house came to be here. We then proceeded into a studio, the Garden Room, an enclosed garden, bedrooms, peaked into the architecture school’s studio, and then into a Cabaret. All the while our guide taught us the history, architectural methods used, and pointed out little bits and bobs that we might have missed had we just wandered around on our own. My favourite area of the complex is a toss-up between the outdoor area by the pool in the opening image and the Cabaret which was the last room we visited. In that room you’ll be treated to a little surprise, which I won’t ruin for you so you can be delighted by it as much as we were.
For a little sneak peek into the tour I will leave you with some photos from around the site…
Open year round except Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Click here for tour descriptions, times, and admission prices and to book tour in advance online.
Phone: 480-860-2700 || Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What do you think? Looks beautiful eh? Have you been or will you be adding this to your list of things to do in Phoenix?
To follow along on our adventures on our Phoenix, AZ Getaway, please feel free to check out these posts:
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