What I Did Over Summer Vacation: Taliesin

by Josh on October 14, 2010 · 4 comments

in Journal

For many bungalow lovers, a dream home might be one of the charming and nicely-detailed kit houses that were available from the Sears catalog throughout the bungalow era.  And if you asked these same people to name their favorite architect, I bet many would say Frank Lloyd Wright— a man who surely abhorred the idea of a mail-order home and the traditional forms of bungalow architecture.

Yet, despite their marked differences, Wright and the bungalow share an aesthetic of simplicity and informality that draws inspiration from nature.  At least, that’s why this bungalow fan also loves Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.  It was a true delight, then, that my summer vacation plans took our family to Spring Green, Wisconsin, Wright’s hometown and the location of his home and studio, Taliesin.

Guests to Taliesin aren’t allowed to take photos inside the buildings, but here some images of the building exteriors and grounds I took on our 2-hour highlights tour.  I’ve also created an album with all of my Taliesin photos.

Taliesin Home and Hill

Taliesin means "shining brow" in Welsh. Wright built his home not on top of the hill visible in the foreground but on the brow surrounding it.

Hillside at Taliesin

The Hillside School is one of the oldest of Wright's buildings at Taliesin. It was built as a school for Wright's aunts to teach in and replaced a traditionally-styled school he designed for them very early in his career.

Balcony View

Wright believed in "owning his view." He bought all the land visible from his windows so his view of the rolling hillsides wouldn't be compromised by someone else's building.

Taliesin Leaning Wall

Like many of Wright's buildings, Taliesin faces significant preservation challenges. This leaning wall is just one small example.

One of the most remarkable details I took away from my tour of Taliesin is how Wright used his own home as a laboratory for new ideas.  He would design additions or re-do rooms, and then have his resident architecture students– more skilled with a ruler and pencil than hammer and chisel– do the building.  With what the tour guides openly confessed as shoddy student construction in many places, Taliesin is full of genius-grade remuddling.  Now preservationists at Taliesin are raising funds and performing work to repair and stabilize a structure that Wright himself continually changed and didn’t build to last.

That really puts my maintenance and restoration projects here at Bungalow ’23 in perspective:  I loved visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, but I’m so glad it isn’t mine.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna October 14, 2010 at 11:26 am

I live only a half hour from there and it has been on my to do list but have never found the time. I drive by it every week to my upholstery class and always take time to look at it. The best view I remember was last winter just before sunrise when the moon backlit the house from Hwy 23. The snow was piled too close along the road for me to stop on take a picture.

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Elizabeth October 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Yes, thank you for posting this! I just finished “Loving Frank”, a semi-fiction book about his life and in which Taliesin plays a featured role. I wish there were interior pictures so that’s too bad.

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Josh October 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm

@Donna, the driftless zone really charmed me– what a beautiful area to call home. The vision you describe from last winter sounds lovely but you’ve only seen Taliesin from the highway, you’re missing out. Unfortunately for my photo collection, you’re also missing out if you only see the buildings from outside…

@Elizabeth, the Taliesin preservation group actually offers a special “Loving Frank” tour featuring notable locations and details from the book. I haven’t read the book myself, but someone in our tour group had. She asked about the Taliesin fire and murders during a Q&A with our tour guide, so we also got to hear some of the fascinating and grisly details of that tragic piece of Taliesin history.

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Sarah October 19, 2010 at 6:36 am

I was there a few years ago – it was so fantastic! I think I’ll get the chance to get to Taliesin west this winter – looking forward to that. I loved thinking about how he played with your experience of the space – good techniques to work into any home design.

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