A must see when visiting Phoenix is Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. This was a place where he could escape the harsh winters of the Midwest and find new inspiration for him and his apprentices. Wright fell in love with the desert and used Taliesin West to educate his apprentice and relax from 1937 up until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Generations of apprentices came here to work under him, and today Taliesin West is home to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Taliesin West is not a single building but rather a series of spaces that are connected through terraces, gardens, and pools and although it was all built over three years, it truly was an ongoing project for Wright. In fact each winter he would return to the house, rethink previous designs and begin to rebuild parts of the house with his apprentices.
This structure represents Wright’s signature philosophy of organic architecture: an architecture that does not sit conspicuously, obtusely, on the landscape but becomes a part of the landscape, works in harmony with its surroundings, and nourishes the lives of its inhabitants. It is for this reason that he took special interest in locally available materials, in fact the structure walls are made of local desert rocks, stacked within wood forms, filled with concrete. Wright also used a natural redwood timber for the roofing structure and parts of the house and studio’s façade. The rich red hue from the redwood timber and with the earthy, sandy hues from the concrete and the stone creates a close natural relationship between the house and landscape. Wright also believed that homes needed to be more functional, no more waste of space like he had done in the past. So in Taliesin he employed low level, horizontal planes that keep the house and studio low to the ground to insure effective natural ventilation and protection and shade from the intense desert sun.
During the construction of Taliesin mistakes were made mainly due to climate, in fact Wright was here only part of the year and he probably wasn’t prepared for the big changes in climate that happen during the summer. So in 1947, he decided it was time to install glass; in 1957, he added a music pavilion, installed heaters and started experimenting with new materials to take the place of the white canvas roof. The school also continues to evolve, with experimental structures built by apprentices with native materials dotting the landscape.