Support Frank Lloyd Wright / Taliesin Architecture Students

It is a tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West architecture school (in Scottsdale, AZ) that students build their own small shelter in the desert.  I am a fan of Dan Simmons' Hyperion series.  If any of you read it, perhaps you remember the section where Aenea is at some strange out-of-time version of this school.  Following the real-world tradition, she builds her own dwelling in the desert.

These are not necessarily cardboard box and plywood forts -- many are real engineered structures whose materials can be expensive (the students do most of the building with their own hands).  I wish more architecture schools emphasized their students actually constructing some of their own work.

The students are looking for your help to support their projects, and have a Kickstarter campaign in progress.

The video below shows what they are doing:

As an aside, if you are in Phoenix, I would put Taliesin West as one of the top 2 places to tour in town, along with the Musical Instrument Museum.   Phoenix of course is much more of an outdoor town.  The very top thing to do in town, not just to tour, is probably to climb Camelback Mountain or Piestawa peak.  Both are mountains dead in the middle of the city, something that is relatively unusual (in Denver, Portland, Seattle, etc the mountains are off to one side).  The views are spectacular, and there is no funicular or cable car.  The view only rewards effort.


  1. Mark:

    Seattle also has 1000'-high hills about 10 miles from downtown, but they're covered in forest. The best view would be from the golf course on top.

  2. jon49:

    Kirsten Dirksen has some nice videos on housing. She did the Taliesin once.

  3. CT_Yankee:

    The owner of a moving company I worked for used to say that architects should be required to spend a summer moving furniture into houses. Can you get a refrigerator, couch, or king size mattress around that corner? Somebody has to be able to live in the house.

  4. DaveK:

    Sorry, you lost me at "Frank Lloyd Wright."

    Wright's contribution to the architecture of houses was, frankly, mostly awful. The floor plans tended to be user-unfriendly, and the structures were drafty and prone to leaks when it rained. If you are unfortunate enough to own one, you might even find that as a "historic structure" you can't even make changes to permanently fix the design flaws.

  5. ErikEssig:

    I've only been in the Phoenix area once. I'm glad my wife and I got a chance to see Taliesin West.

  6. rdk:

    A few years a go I stayed for a week at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix - what a masterfully designed hotel, the architect a student of Frank Lloyd Wright I believe. Loved the building. I can't think of a reason to go back to Phoenix (sorry!) except I would return if I was able to stay at the Biltmore.

  7. mesaeconoguy:

    Correct, FLW was aesthetically fantastic, but practically obnoxious. He was a terrible engineer (and also very obstreperous).

    In fact, a few years back, the theater at Taliesin flooded due to its horrible design, and had to be reconstructed and re-sealed.

    Wright committed errors any first-year engineering student could correct.

  8. Ann_In_Illinois:

    What you and DaveK say may all be true (he certainly was a conceited jerk for the most part, although probably very charming when he wanted to be). Devotees of FLW may get a bit carried away, but it's possible to appreciate his contributions to design (and, in many cases, to affordable design) despite engineering flaws. It helps to keep in mind how long ago he was designing, and what buildings looked like then. On the U. of Wisconsin-Madison campus there's a building that FLW supposedly helped design as a student, and many people have said that this building had a big influence on him in terms of what NOT to do. It's an ugly, overly ornate monster. [I can't remember the building's name, but it's the one where some crazy student group in the late 1960s or early 1970s set off a bomb that killed a graduate student.]

    By the standards of the time, FLW was revolutionary. I also admire the fact that he tried to design affordable houses for some clients, with things like an attached carport (something he didn't 'invent', but incorporated very early). Looking back today, we can look down on carports since attached garages are better, but way back in 1936, FLW recognized that this was a relatively low cost way to improve the lives of homeowners.

    I'm genuinely curious - do you know if his designs were all that bad, in engineering terms, by the standards at the time that he was designing and building things? He was trying new, possibly challenging things like some of the cantilevered structures (I admit that I don't know much about this), and doing something new is riskier than following what everyone else does. Some of the complaints we hear now are because people have 60 to 80 year old houses that naturally need some work, but "historic structure" status prevents modernization. That doesn't mean that the house was bad at the time that it was built.

  9. xtmar:

    Some of the problems with his designs are indeed from age, and others from trying to push the boundaries, but some of them are also relatively simple problems that any competent architect in the past century and a half should have been aware of. In particular, his appreciation of drainage and water intrusion issues was subpar.

  10. stevewfromford:

    Piestawa ( or whatever silly name the PC crowd come up with) will always be Squaw Peak to me. The least they could do when they change these venerable old names is to come up with something new that most could, at least, pronounce