Published July/August 2013

Taliesin West

Get to know Frank Lloyd Wright through one of his most notable creations

BYKara Philp
If you’ve marveled at Gammage Auditorium on the Arizona State University campus or the Guggenheim Museum in New York, then you’re already familiar with the iconic work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
What you may not know is that Wright is responsible for more than a thousand other remarkable designs, almost half of which have been realized. Wright was already an internationally known architect when, in 1937, he purchased 640 acres of raw Sonoran desert for a mere $8,000, and began construction on what would serve as his winter home, office, and campus for his teaching until he passed away in 1959. This Scottsdale treasure is Taliesin West (the original, Taliesin, was Wright’s summer home in Wisconsin).
Approaching Taliesin West, you can see the complementary relationship between its distinctive angles and geometric patterns, and the serene mountains beyond. 
On the 90-minute Insights tour, you’ll explore the living quarters of this national historic landmark and learn more about Wright’s principles of organic architecture, namely design appropriate to the location, the time, and the people. 
Wright believed Arizona needed its own type of architecture and, in turn, established the property’s signature characteristic: prominent walls. Aptly referred to as desert masonry, they are created by filling wooden forms with area rocks, and then a mortar mix of sand, water, and cement. 
As you walk along outdoor paths that connect the rooms of this residence, it feels more like a camp than a home — precisely Wright’s intent. He maintained that this was not a refuge from nature, but rather a way to enhance living with nature. This notion is reiterated with his use of natural light. From diffused overhead light in his drafting space to the detailed shadows cast by the building itself, he gave careful consideration to the position and impact of the sun. 
Beyond the recurring shapes and linear patterns of the exterior, you’re introduced to design elements that can be felt, not seen. Entering the Garden Room, you’ll experience Wright’s “embrace and release” concept, which involves small, confining entryways that lead into wide, wowing spaces. Stop to admire the view from the breezeway off the dining room and you’ll feel a drop in temperature as the wind picks up to showcase Wright’s interpretation of passive solar design.
Subtle intricacies can be found around every corner — a vase that sticks through a window because he refused to relocate it to accommodate the installation of glass, a bed with a partition down the center, a fire-breathing dragon, and an assortment of Hohokam petroglyphs. Each one reveals a glimpse of the artist responsible for this masterpiece, and leaves us wanting to learn more about the man recognized as the greatest American architect of all time.
KARA PHILP is an associate editor at Highroads
For More Information
Call your local AAA Travel professional at 1-888-870-9392 or visit

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If You Go
12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd.
Scottsdale, Ariz.
Tour information: Choose from six different tours. Prices range from $24 to $60. Not all tours are offered year-round. 
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