Frank Lloyd Wright (June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959) was an American architect, designer, writer, and educator. He designed more than 1,000 structures over a creative period of 70 years. Taliesin West was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert from 1937 until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Today it is the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The complex drew its name from Wright’s home, Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 12, 1974, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark on May 20, 1982.
Wright felt very strongly about the connection to the desert. He said: “Arizona needs its own architecture…. Arizona’s long, low, sweeping lines, up tilting planes. Surface patterned after such abstraction in line and color as find ‘realism’ in the patterns of the rattlesnake, the Gila monster, and the saguaro, cholla or staghorn – or is it the other way around—are inspiration enough.”
The structure’s walls are made of local desert rocks, stacked within wood forms, filled with concrete – colloquially referred to as “desert masonry”. Wright always favored using the materials readily available rather than those that must be transported to the site. In Wright’s own words: “There were simple characteristic silhouettes to go by, tremendous drifts and heaps of sunburned desert rocks were nearby to be used. We got it all together with the landscape…” The flat surfaces of the rocks were placed outward facing and large boulders filled the interior space so concrete could be conserved. The guided tour and recently added self-guided audio tour give us a remarkable opportunity to visit his winter home and understand his architectural aesthetics.
Heloise Crista’s sculptures have been incorporated throughout the campus at Taliesin West—where they continue to inspire visitors—and structures designed by the Taliesin Associated Architects, the architecture firm created by apprentices of Wright, following his passing. Her first major work was a bronze bust of Wright, in 1956, which remains on display in the Garden Room at Taliesin West today.
Taliesin West is a UNESCO World Heritage site and National Historic Landmark nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Wright’s beloved winter home and desert laboratory was established in 1937 and diligently handcrafted over many years into a world unto itself. Deeply connected to the desert from which it was forged, Taliesin West possesses an almost prehistoric grandeur. It was built and maintained almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it among the most personal of the architect’s creations.
In 2008, the U.S. National Park Service submitted Taliesin West along with nine other Frank Lloyd Wright properties to a tentative list for World Heritage Status. The 10 sites have been submitted as one single site. The January 22, 2008, press release from the National Park Service website announcing the nominations states that, “The preparation of a Tentative List is a necessary first step in the process of nominating a site to the World Heritage List.” After revised proposals, Taliesin West and seven other properties were inscribed on the World Heritage List under the title “The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright” in July 2019.