Organic Architecture


If I had a magic wand I would change only one thing about my life, and that’s to have become an architect.


Well, maybe a couple of things, like buying Microsoft stocks in 1986 and collecting CHANEL ten, twenty years earlier…but I digress. Today I’m taking you to Taliesin West, a Scottsdale property on 550 acres in the Sonoran desert that showcases Frank LLoyd Wright’s (FLW) residences, workspace, and archives. It is also from here that his foundation operates its international headquarters.

I’m literally a kid in the candy store when I pull up at the gate…


It’s probably not quite as visually stimulating as going to his most famous and more dramatic home, Fallingwater, but I’ve been wanting to make this pilgrimage to Taliesin West for quite some time now…don’t ask me why I never went when I used to live here. Anyhow, the drive up the hillside is much like the drive anywhere around here. Lots of sun, sky, and cacti…


but keep driving…


and you’ll see the low-profile buildings dot the side of the mountains.


To know FLW is to appreciate his love of the land. His architecture is a mere extension of the landscape…unobtrusive, subtle, yet timelessly bold.  You might say FLW’s works champion organic architecture. It is organic to the land in its use of materials, in its engineering, and definitely in its aesthetics.


All of this from someone who was never formally trained as an architect.  He had studied many things and mostly learned by doing (a methodology applied at his accredited school of architecture), but it was his intuitive understanding of the land that separated him from other architects before and after him. Below are photos I’ve taken of the grounds during my 90-minutes tour. The interiors of his private office, home, cabaret theater, music pavilion, and dining hall are off-limits to photography so most of my shots are of the exterior.


I should also note that Taliesin West is a living, working, and educational facility.



FLW was a fully flawed man. Arrogant (he often proclaimed himself to be the world’s greatest architect) and reckless (he left his wife and 6 kids for another woman and often spent more money than he could make) as a man, as an architect he had a vision that was nothing short of genius. If you stood in any of his buildings today, including the ultra modern  Guggenheim Museum in NYC,  you would be surprised to find out that it was designed by a man born in the late 1800s!


FLW was quite taken with Asian art, and you can see the Chinese ceramics and Japanese scrolls throughout the compound:


One of my favorite spots on this campus is the breezeway, the best refuge on a hot summer day…


and from here you can peek into the dining area…


where all the students have to take turns with kitchen duty.  Remember the part about learning by doing?  FLW felt that if the students had to serve food to the rest of the associates, who may add up to 100 people at a time, they would learn to design kitchens, both commercial and private, better. For a dreamer, he was quite a practical teacher.

My other favorite place is probably at the far corner in this picture,


because from this vantage point you can see the campus as well as desert:



There’s another tour here that I’d like to take the next time I’m here on a Saturday, and that’s of the shelters built by the FLW associates. They take down the shelters built previously by other students and rebuild over them with their own designs. They then get to live there; it’s truly a living laboratory for these students.  

For now, I can’t wait to figure out how to get to that little remote place in Pennsylvania where Fallingwater awaits me.


Oh right, so what was I wearing? Theory pants, cc camellia flip flops, 09P jacket, jcrew tank, and ostrich flap! I thought the bag camouflaged into the desert quite nicely. FLW would have approved :-).


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