The Taliesin West Museum

Date and Location September 2009 | Scottsdale, Arizona

Reviewer Patricia Fleming

I recently visited Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Arizona, a desert gem, and one of the state’s most treasured cultural institutions. It’s a great example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architectural philosophy whereby buildings should be integrated into their natural surroundings.

I’m no architect but this felt good. Very good. His disregard for European architecture (which he thought inappropriate for Americans living in the 20th century) was our gain, as Taliesin West (there is another Taliesin in the East), is built on the horizontal, in keeping with the rocky terrain. The sloping walls, upturned beams, local rock embedded into the structure, gives a beautiful effect, and the terraces which are broad and open, gave the place a wonderful airy feel.

The word “Taliesin” comes from the Welsh (his Mom was from Welsh stock) and means “shining brow”…the brow of the earth. His Welsh background is probably where Mr. Wright got his love of get togethers in the Great Room, every Saturday night, with himself at the piano - as everyone knows, the Welsh love nothing better than a sing-along around the piano.

This not a boring museum, but an active community of students and architects working together to maintain Wright’s vision. Hundred of students apply yearly for inclusion in the architectural program but only 22 are chosen. Our guide (for a 90 minute tour) did an excellent job of not only explaining how it was built (by apprentices and students) but he included a lot of personal anecdotes about Mr. Wright’s love of all things Japanese (whimsical ceramic shrines were dotted throughout the complex). Plus, Wright was sociable, and loved to entertain and hear Hollywood gossip from visiting celebrities (who knew his grand daughter was Anne Baxter - the cynical and seductive snake Eve Harrington in the classic All about Eve)

Frank Lloyd Wright had a fabulous life. Creator of wonderful buildings, lived to 91, three wives, eight children, sure of his own genius. Go visit!

© 2009 Patricia Fleming