First things first, my apologies to Nancy Horan for playing off her book title as the lead-in to this post. Ms. Horan, to her credit, does an excellent job in her 2007 book about the relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and one of his clients, Mamah Borthwick. It’s a great read for anyone interested in the excentric, private side of this world renowned architect.
As the post title explains though, I have my own reasons for loving the work that Mr. Wright produced during his long and storied professional career. None of these revelations came easy though. As a young college student I developed a strong distaste for the flamboyant, arrogant person that was FLLW. Most of the work of well-known architects I studied in college concentrated on just that, their work. But there was just as much information available about Wrights out-of-office activities (see previous paragraph…)as there was about the things he produced in the office. All this overwhelmed my initial impressions and painted a negative perspective of this man in my mind from the very beginning. But as I grow older I also grow more open-minded (yeah, right!) and willing to study his work and let it stand for itself without the baggage that comes with the creator.
And a creator he was. To the degree that some could label his work as “Green before Green was cool.” I’ve lamented this issue before but FLLW literally put the principles of LEED to use before LEED was looked upon as THE way to construct new buildings. Let’s face it. Anyone who can be credited with the development of a “style” of Architecture, as FLLW is with the Prairie Style, has to have had it going on.
In developing the Prairie Style the Principles he sought to put into Practice were simple. Fit into the environment where they were placed by using low structures, close to the ground to simulate the vast expanse of the Prairie. Utilize materials native to the area you are building. Take advantage of the views the site had to offer and orient the building and the rooms within to take advantage of those views. Marry the interior spaces required for shelter and security with the exterior spaces that allowed for openness and freedom, all within the same locale. Utilize nature to your benefit by protecting buildings from the cold northwest winds through vegetation and limited openings yet capitalize on the cooling summer breezes from the Southwest while blocking the harsh, direct heat from entering windows with massive overhangs. Making every square foot inside useful and with purpose.
I had the chance to visit FLLW’s winter home/ Studio back in 2008 and it serves as a perfect example of the design principles he espoused.
And I would encourage any of you to do the same if you visit the Phoenix, AZ area. Though, by the time FLLW began work on his winter home he had moved beyond the Prairie Style, the virtues of good design remained the same, simply wrapped in a different envelope. And they are all on display here.
Now what you can’t see in these photographs is what you will have to look for yourself when you visit Taliesin West. That’s because photographs taken on the grounds at Taliesin West are permitted but may only be used for the personal use of the photographer and are not to be used or distributed for public use. And you wonder why I had a hard time getting over his arrogance…
If you’re truly interested in what lies behind the iron curtain drop me a line and I will share with you privately what you are missing here.