Wright Demonstrating the Ideals of Organic Architecture in Taliesin West

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Wright demonstrating the Ideals of Organic Architecture in Taliesin West

Exterior image of Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona

“Organic can merely mean something biological, but if you are going to take the word organic into your consciousness as concerned with entities, something in which the part is to the whole as the whole is to the part, and which is all devoted to a purpose consistently, then you have something that can live, because that is vital” (1) (Meehan 52)

The famous American architect by the name of Frank Lloyd Wright based his designs on what he called “organic architecture”. His philosophy of what modern architecture should be is one as unique as his buildings, but nevertheless he was a pivotal figure in the progression of modernism in the United States. As described by Kathryn Smith, his winter home in Scottsdale Arizona “[reveals], more than any of his other buildings, a closer understanding of Wright the man as well as Wright the architect.” (Smith 92) This winter home is known as Taliesin West and is an epitome of organic architecture.

Wight’s work has previously been demonstrated with the International Style, but upon deeper understanding of his architecture one can come to the conclusion that it does not exactly agree with the movement. He allowed his work to be included in first exhibition of the International style in the hopes of demonstrating the immense difference of his structures compared to the work by Le Corbusier’s, Alvar Aalto, Walter Gropius and many others.

Before exploring the relation between Taliesin West and Organic Architecture, an investigation of his lectures and writings must be completed to thoroughly grasp his principles of design. Comprehending his journey until 1936, when he bought the land to construct his new project, will grant the knowledge needed to effortlessly connect the two.

Wright started his career at an early age, in 1885, in the city of Chicago. He first worked for architect Joseph Silsbee, than spent five years under the direction of Alder and Sullivan. In 1893 he made the decision to commence his own firm and went through a large learning curve for the next seven years - being a young, ambitious architect with no true reputation and little individual experience. The first decade of the 1900s saw Wright’s first real break-through with the Prairie House. The ideas he demonstrated in this school of thought have a clear connection to his later developed definition of organic architecture. “Reproductions and variations of foreign styles did not seem to Wright an authentic expression of American culture...” (Twombly 59-60) The drive to appropriate the types of buildings to their suitable land in America pushed Wright further in his designs. The time period expanding form 1910 to 1930 gave rise to many hardships for Wright. In 1911 he built his new home in Wisconsin, named Taliesin, and in 1914 it was the place of the tragic death of his wife and two children. Wright remarried but in 1927 got divorced for Olga Lazovich Hinzenberg to whom he stayed married until his death. By the 1930s Wright’s Organic style had clearly matured and he became confident in his principles, nonetheless he would continue the exploration of his style through experimentation. He opened the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932 in his Wisconsin estate. This fellowship was not to be like a school at all - “instead of teachers, pupils, and pedagogy” he envisioned having “skilled craftspeople, novices, and physical labor.” (Twombly 212) This is a direct result of “Wright [believing] that education should be in doing, not in the classroom.” (Twombly 212) A former apprentice of the Fellowship, by the name of Bruce Brook Pfeiffer, describes that upon their first encounter with the desert in 1928 (when Mr. and Mrs. Wright went to Phoenix to collaborate on a hotel called the Arizona Baltimore) “they would take weekend trips out on the desert. They thought the desert was a wonderful place. The...
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