Home > Aesthetics, Art > Taliesin Turns 100

Taliesin Turns 100

March 1, 2011


I was born in Wisconsin in a small town between Madison and Milwaukee. My folks moved my family to SoCal in 1959. I have been back to WI only twice. I hope to go a few more times before I die. It is a beautiful state. Green and lush. My great-grandparents helped settle Horicon where the great Horicon Marsh is located. I lived in Madison for a short time when I was nineteen. Some years later I came onto the work of architect of Frank Lloyd Wright while visiting Oak Park, Illinois. Wright is another example of a man whose creative genius surpassed his personality – Wright, like Picasso, was a completely self-absorbed man. I doubt I could stand to be in his presence, but I absolutely love Wright designs. I was fortunate to visit Taliesin in Spring Green WI about eight years ago. A couple years later, I visited Taliesin West in Phoenix AZ. Both are inspiring. I hope to visit each at least one more time.

PBS Reports Taliesin Turns 100 — view slide show click here

In the spring of 1911, architect Frank Lloyd Wright began constructing a cottage for his mother on a property she’d purchased west of Madison, Wisconsin. Though already well-established as an architect, it was a lean period for him professionally. After working with the architect Louis Sullivan in Chicago, Wright had gone out on his own and built the first of his prairie homes. The designs brought him international acclaim, with their long horizontal lines, broad roofs, and spacious interiors.

But despite early success, Wright’s commissions dwindled after he became involved with the wife of a client, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, and left his wife and six children to visit Europe with his new lover. He returned to Chicago with a reputation and without a studio. His mother, Anna, commissioned the cottage, but offered it to him before a final blueprint was complete, realizing that he needed a place of his own. The house became the first project on the Taliesin estate, where Wright would develop one of the nation’s foremost architectural apprenticeships, and which would serve as a laboratory for the innovative designs that would make him the most famous architect in America.

A hundred years after Wright embarked on Taliesin’s construction, it can be hard to believe that some of his designs are as old as they are. The buildings remain stunning and unusual today: the square jaws of the Robie House jutting across a flat Chicago lawn, the Guggenheim Museum’s white helix nestled into upper Manhattan, the cantilevered rooms and walkways of Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, which extend both peacefully and perilously across lichen, rocks, and rushing water.

These designs remain relevant in part because they continue to respond to contemporary concerns. How might an architect build homes that are both beautiful and environmentally attuned? Of and for local communities? Affordable? Before discussions about greening the American lifestyle pervaded public dialogue, Frank Lloyd Wright was leading (by today’s standards and terminology) a relatively “sustainable” life, farming with his students and scouting the area for natural materials to use to build his home.

The story of Taliesin and Wright’s time spent there is being celebrated this year with months of tours, receptions, photography, concerts, and a number of exhibits including artifacts and archival photos.

This past weekend saw the opening of a retrospective of Wright’s career at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century focuses on Wright’s philosophy and legacy, showcasing drawings, photographs, and models, some built by Wright himself. It also features drawings for some of his lesser-known projects, including several plans for suburban developments, never realized, that highlight Wright’s pragmatism and imagination.

Located just outside the town of Spring Green, and close to the area where his mother’s Welsh family settled after arriving in America, Wright built Taliesin on a site he knew intimately, having spent his boyhood summers with relatives nearby. His affection for the region and his familiarity with its characteristics influenced the building’s design; he would construct it into — and not atop — the hillside, and without gutters so that in the winter, “icicles by invitation might beautify the eaves,” a feature he described in his autobiography. Wright built the foundations and many of the walls with limestone from a nearby quarry, and he mixed sand from the Wisconsin River into plaster walls, giving them a golden color. The house was largely self-sufficient, boasting a generator, garden, and artesian well. On Sundays, its residents held church service in their own chapel. He named the building Taliesin, Welsh for “Shining Brow.”

The house embodied a philosophy he termed “organic architecture,” characterized by designs that reflected nature and interacted with it, both in form and in its materials. Wright identified three components in an ideal building: time, place and humanity.

Located just outside the town of Spring Green, and close to the area where his mother's Welsh family settled after arriving in America, Wright built Taliesin on a site he knew intimately, having spent his boyhood summers with relatives nearby. His affection for the region and his familiarity with its characteristics influenced the building's design; he would construct it into — and not atop — the hillside, and without gutters so that in the winter, "icicles by invitation might beautify the eaves," a feature he described in his autobiography. Wright built the foundations and many of the walls with limestone from a nearby quarry, and he mixed sand from the Wisconsin River into plaster walls, giving them a golden color. The house was largely self-sufficient, boasting a generator, garden, and artesian well. On Sundays, its residents held church service in their own chapel. He named the building Taliesin, Welsh for "Shining Brow." The house embodied a philosophy he termed "organic architecture," characterized by designs that reflected nature and interacted with it, both in form and in its materials. Wright identified three components in an ideal building: time, place and humanity.

Read entire article and view slide show

Advertisements
Categories: Aesthetics, Art Tags:
%d bloggers like this: