July 25, 2007 11:36 AM PDT
Frank Lloyd Wright's spirit lives on at Taliesin West
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Finally, in addition to the previously mentioned canvas ceilings, the facility uses a lot of glass, though it's not something Wright wanted to rely on at first. He had designed the estate with no windows, only open gaps in rooms, which turned out to be an invitation to all kinds of desert critters. Wright's wife put her foot down, and later Wright claimed that adding glass was one of the best ideas he'd ever had.
Another important idea of his was one he borrowed, and then bent and broke, from his mentor, Louis Sullivan, an architectural giant from Chicago who had hired Wright at age 20 with no credentials but a prodigy's understanding of 3D space.
That philosophy was "form follows function." To Wright, however, the proper way to put it was "form and function are one."
That's why all apprentices and students at Taliesin West are required to cook for everyone there. It turns out the best way to learn how to design a kitchen is to use one, and for anyone whose kitchen was disastrously designed, that idea is sure to make a lot of sense.
It's hard to know how to approach many of the rooms at Taliesin West, but Wright's philosophies are evident in each and every one. Among the most noteworthy are his office, a relatively small, light and airy space with a low drafting table that invites productive work and cooperative energy; a music pavilion where live concerts could be played and where new apprentices had a dinner hosted in their honor; Wright's bedroom--small and spare, but with great valley views; and the living room, a large, open space with a welcoming feel and a lovely fireplace.
Essentially, Wright hated borrowing other people's ideas. The concept of "thinking outside the box" was shorthand for only being a little more original than everybody else. Wright wanted to destroy the box, and that's why so much of what he did as a professional and what is evident at Taliesin West and in so many of his other creations is so different than what anyone else in the world had built.
Even today, 48 years after his death, so much of what Wright built and stood for is seen as simply the best and the standard by which all other architectural design is measured by.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and am lucky enough to drive by the Marin County Civic Center quite often. Anyone who's ever seen that building--which was featured in the science fiction films Gattaca and THX 1138--knows what I mean when I say that a Frank Lloyd Wright design is worth going out of your way to view.
And that's why I've come to Scottsdale. It was definitely one of the reasons I wanted to do this road trip in the Southwest and I'm very glad to have come here--even if I walk away feeling a little like I will never create anything worthy of Wright's standards.
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