The last time Ruth and I saw Taliesin West, we had a guide who told us facts. This time we visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s western headquarters in Scottsdale, we were led about the property by Larry, who interjected interesting stories among his facts. This made for a more interesting experience. What a great tour!
For example, I learned that Mr. Wright arrived in Phoenix 10 years before he conceived Taliesin West to work on the now historic Biltmore Hotel. He and his 3rd wife Olgivanna began winter camping at what is now his southwest architectural laboratory in the Phoenix area in 1933, when he was already a vigorous 70 year old. He still had 22 productive years ahead of him, and living in the Sonoran desert near the end of the Great Depression led to new thinking. Frank Lloyd Wright was a man of little formal education. He was a learn-by-doing kind of thinker. I also learned that his given middle name was Lincoln, not Lloyd. He had a less-than-great relationship with his father and, when appropriate, he adopted the name Lloyd from his mother’s side of the family. I didn’t know that he retained keys to the properties he built, and that clients who rearranged his furniture and objects sometimes returned home to find items moved back to the place he originally visualized for them.
Frank Lloyd Wright was probably the premier US architect during his lifetime and even after his death in 1959. When Architectural Record magazine did an article about the 100 most significant buildings in the world in 1991, according to Taliesin West’s interpretive guide, 11 of them had been designed by him.
After staying in the desert for 5 or 6 months for several years to avoid Wisconsin winters, Frank Lloyd Wright decided to move his sleeping quarters inside, and he created a small all-aluminum bathroom crafted from airplane parts for personal use. Tour takers see it. They also see a hexagonal door, the power lines that Wright hated, and some excellent water features. Told that he would have to go down 5,000 feet to have water on his property, Wright struck it at less than 500 feet. He was blessed with an inventive brain that seldom shut down. Thoughts came so often that he didn’t take the time to patent his better ideas, except for his favorite color, Cherokee red.
Larry took the time to tell us about other Wright properties in the Phoenix area that Wright designed. Some of them give tours that are not widely known and publicized. I plan to learn more about them.
ps one woman on the tour convinced herself that the floor in the room we were visiting was slanted. It was an optical illusion invented by restless genius Frank Lloyd Wright.