Short Takes: a Taliesin Pilgrimage

Short Takes: a Taliesin Pilgrimage

by | Short Takes

Last week I visited Taliesin for the first time and was surprised in ways that I would not have guessed. The place has a ramshackle, cocky attitude, sophisticated and homespun at the same time.

Last week I visited Taliesin for the first time and was surprised in ways that I would not have guessed. The place has a ramshackle, swaggering attitude, sophisticated and homespun at the same time. That night, I dreamed that FLW was a Pirate!

Spiraling into the Taliesin compound

The journey up to the “brow of the hill” follows a gently ascending roadway, spiraling clockwise from the valley floor, around the back, and finally to the side of the compound.  To me, the place appears to be a small fortified village; I could imagine a defended well or spring at it’s core. The entrance to the compound is obscured; stairways hinting at entry, like so many stair-streets in Mediterranean hill towns.

The protected Court

Upon passing through the compressive, very low roof, the view opens up to a very lovely garden, even in it’s current decrepit state (more on this later). Prominently featured at the far side of the courtyard garden is the converted stable building.

The Converted Stable

The general layout of the buildings and exterior space reminds me of Mayan and other Mesoamerican compound arrangements, similar to Uxmal or Tikal in central america.

Garden and Brow



Garden and Brow in 1928, organized around mature trees

And now for a Call to Action: Taliesin is in awful shape, and getting worse.  After FLW’s death, his wife created Taliesin architects to finish up work that was still pending and on the boards.  That entity is no more, and with 30 students a year and very aged Trustees, it’s going to take a miracle to save the place.

Or… perhaps Brad Pitt?

Frank Lloyd Wright led a rather tumultuous love life, one that was punctuated by an axe-murder and fire, which is to be the subject of a new film. Bruce Beresford of “Driving Miss Daisy” fame is set to develop and direct “Taliesin,” a film named for the home he built for himself and his then married mistress, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Mr. Pitt, if you are going to “be” FLW, please do what you can to help preserve Taliesin.

Deferred Maintenance

3 Responses to “Short Takes: a Taliesin Pilgrimage”

  1. Lira Luis

    06. Jun, 2012

    In reference to your caption for photo no. 4, “Deferred Maintenance”, I’d like to correct that misinformation. That piece of roof detailing is premeditated by Frank Lloyd Wright. Did you take the tour or you just walked the grounds of Taliesin in Spring Green yourself? That roof, meeting the oak tree would have been explained to you. He did a similar detail in his Oak Park Home and studio where the tree was half inside and half outside the house. That’s how he respects every single tree and incorporates them as part of architecture–that’s part of the organic principle. I base my comments on having lived at Taliesin for 3 years.

  2. Mark English, AIA

    07. Jun, 2012

    Hi Lira, thanks for your comments. I did take a tour with a guide, and the tree in question was presented as an unintended consequence. There is a world of difference between what FLW did at his Oak Park home, or in the courtyard of Taliesin itself (see the 1928 photo that I’ve added), or at the entrance to Taliesin, and what has occurred at the roof of the former Hillside Home school.

    Old photos of the building do not show evergreen trees planted around, or next to the roof. I hardly think that the tree in question was an important determinant in the building design.

    Since FLW was long dead by the time you spent your three years there, his intentions will always be an interpretation. Let’s remember he was a great architect, but only a man. The 20th century saw far too many “Great Men” deified and millions paid the price.

    Let’s think for ourselves people!

    On another note, my real intent was to express my hope that Brad Pitt, a man whose profession is to pretend to be other people, would pony up some cash towards the millions required to even stabilize the place.

  3. Lira Luis

    09. Jun, 2012

    Your caption for photo no. 4 seems more like a mockery than an intent to attract funding to preserve the place. It is misleading.

    FLW may have been long dead when I lived at Taliesin but I disagree with your comment that his intentions will always be an interpretation. I lived with his original apprentices and interacted with those who built Taliesin so stories on what I know about the place is first-hand information. There is also the Frank Lloyd Wright archives that contains numerous data not easily accessible to the public that I was fortunate to see because I worked there for 3 years as well.

    Not every graduate or former Taliesin apprentice deified him too. Believe it or not, there are independent thinkers among those who graduated there.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.