Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, October 20, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 13



 Mountain Views News Saturday, October 20, 2012 

One Of A Kind: Featuring unique homes and gardens and the people who create them 

Story and Photos by Chris Bertrand. 

Frank Lloyd Wright a 
prolific architectural 
designer who created 
1146 buildings, 
furniture pieces, 
fabrics, lighting, 
china and graphics, 
still ignites passion in 
architectural circles, 
both pro and con, even 
decades after his death 
in 1959.

His goal was to revolutionize architecture, 
beginning 1893 with his first client’s home design 
disavowing the traditional floorplan of many 
small rooms, in favor of an open floorplan design 
in Winslow House. By 1936, his Johnson Wax 
building in Racine, WI and Pennsylvania’s Falling 
Water residence got the architectural world’s 

Wright chose 600 acres of the Sonoran desert in 
Scottsdale, Arizona as his “winter camp” back in 
1937, to escape the freezing Midwest months. He 
led a car caravan of family, plus Taliesen Fellowship 
devotees and staff on the 1500 mile trek out west 
every year, for months of thinking and doing in 
a fresh environment. He named it Taliesin West, 
using the Welsh word meaning “shining brow” 
after the first Taliesin back in Wisconsin at Spring 

For the first few years, the Taliesin West experience 
was indeed camping in the desert, intimately 

communing with the landscape and the land for 
inspiration and first-hand study. Wright constantly 
searched for economical ways to build, shelter and 
live compatibly with the natural surroundings, 
seeing architecture as “a natural link between 
mankind and the environment” casting off current 
and historical European styles as incongruent and 
unsuitable for American living.

Wright avidly tested the limits of inexpensive 
building materials, to the point of failure, knowing 
that defining a material’s limit was critical. For 
example he loved the diffuse filtered light created 
by long rolls of inexpensive canvas draped over 
ceiling framing over work spaces. He pronounced 
the shadow-free light perfect for design work.

The concrete and exposed rock walls and the 
slab on-grade construction, with no footings or 
foundations, are another example, which required 
less skilled labor to install, reducing costs and 
increasing the available labor pool available to put 
the buildings up. This dedicated building 

component research and testing aided in the 
design of his “Usonian” homes, intended to be 
beautiful, uniquely American residences for those 
of modest means.

Wright also tried to re-use many building 
materials. Redwood from concrete forms was later 
refashioned as triangular theater lighting in one of 
Wright’s theaters. One 4’x8’ plywood sheet from 
the construction process was cut in triangular 
“origami-style” pieces, then assembled, with 
almost no waste wood, as movable seating used 
around the fireplace in the living room.

Wright loved fireplaces, designing and installing 
some 40 fireplaces in the three residences he 
occupied. Many were built throughout the 
Taliesin complex, for heat to ward off the night 
chill of the desert, and for the beauty of firelight. 
In summer, many fireplaces also did double duty 
as rudimentary swamp coolers, by filling the 
shallow depression at the base of the fireplace with 
water, then allowing the natural air convection to 
cool the living space.

Wright constantly sought to blend structure and 
environment in harmony. Integrated lighting 
was another forefront Wright studied and 
experimented on at Taliesin West, with several 
different forays into recessed and indirect lighting 
on his campus laboratory. So many decades ago, 
Wright sought to preserve the desert landscape, 
offering to pay to place utility lines below 
the property underground, a concept rarely 
considered and almost unheard of at the time.

Until recently, the Wright’s personal living spaces 
were not open to public viewing. After a ten year 
restoration, Mr. and Mrs. Wright’s bedrooms and 
private spaces are now included in some tours, to 
the delight of those who gain more insight with a 
behind the scenes look at how he lived when out 
of the spotlight. 

A highlight of this portion of the tour Wright’s 
bathroom, lined with aluminum with heavy 
horizontal lines, reminiscent of the steel railroad 
cars. Mrs. Wright, not quite as fond of nature, 
animals, snakes up close and personal, eventually 
had folding doors and more closet space added to 
her private living space. 

Today, the fully accredited, Frank Lloyd Wright 
School of Architecture onsite, still requires 
students to build their own shelters for firsthand 
experience in living and experiencing the design 
decisions they make. 

 “Shelter” tours are offered on these structures on 
Saturdays between November and April, which 
I hope to do on a future visit. Several different 
daytime tours are offered with differing focus and 
tour length, plus their dramatic “night Lights on 
the Desert” tours in the evenings.

Wright’s presence and influence on contemporary 
design and American architecture continues 
today. About five years ago, a previously unbuilt 
design for a spire, originally intended for an 
Arizona capitol building was built in Scottsdale as 
a standalone structure in Wright’s honor at Frank 
Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Scottsdale Road.

For more information on visiting Taliesin West in 
Scottsdale, AZ, or other Wright installations, visit or call 480-860-2700.

Donna Yeaw
Tour Manager
Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Taliesin West
P.O. Box 4430
Scottsdale, Arizona 85261-4430
Telephone: (480) 860-2700 ext 482
Facsimile: (480) 860-1863




Even with recent gains in the market, the concept of homeownership is still under attack. Owners 
feel let down by falling values, critics say the American Dream has become a nightmare, and others 
say renting is the best option now. There is no doubt that many have suffered at the hands of bad 
lending practices and economic turmoil associated with the recession.

However… owning a home has always been a huge part of the American Dream, and will continue to 
be so long after the current economic crisis and wave of defaults has passed. Our homes are a place 
of security for our families and for establishing traditions with our friends.

No one can argue against the benefits that homeownership provides to our communities and to society 
in general. Homeowners have a higher level of self-esteem, education, and involvement in civic 
activities. Why try to tear down these fundamental truths simply because we are in a downward part 
of the always dynamic cycle of real estate?

The time has come to reaffirm the dream of homeownership, but in a more sober and accountable 
fashion. We should emphasize responsible ownership for the long term, which helps us and our 
communities achieve the common goals of financial and social well-being. Today’s naysayers will 
change their tune when the cycle rises again, and you can count on that.

Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 Email: Website: