Monday, November 4, 2013

Taliesin West - Frank Lloyd Wright

When we came to Scottsdale, my parents and I didn't really have any plans. We were really just taking advantage of a fortuitous set of circumstances that allowed us to take a cheap/free vacation for a few days. But as we started looking into the area, we found out that Scottsdale had a lot more to offer than swimming pools and golf courses.

One of such offerings was Taliesin West, former home of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. If you know my father well, you'll know he (like many other young egoists) was influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand and her infamous novel, The Fountainhead. Writing about a radical individualist architect who rejected the traditional classic aesthetic, Rand constantly rejected the assertion that her novel's lead character, Howard Roark, was based on the real life Frank Lloyd Wright. But the parallels are hard to ignore and looking at some of FLW's body of work, you can visually appreciate what the Fountainhead was describing with words.

The site is about a 30 minute drive northwest from The Phoenician. It's pretty easy to get to, though it gets a bit tricky when you cross Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard. Just follow the Taliesin West insignia signs and your parents should be fine.

Before Your Tour
First, if you plan to visit, you should know that you should book your tickets in advance online (via Zerve's online booking website) as there are set tour times each day. For the basic 90 minute guided "Insights Tour," prices run $35/person ($32 + $3 booking fee) but it's free for adorable toddlers under 4 years old. Additionally, for some reason, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are $6/person cheaper, so if you have the flexibility, you can save a few extra dollars for some In-N-Out Burgers later. I suppose you can also take your chances and just show up at Taliesin West without purchasing tickets in advance, but the prices will be a few dollars higher.

Second, the tour is inside and outside the main home and surrounding buildings. While we were able to bring my trusty travel stroller, there were some small sets of stairs to negotiate, so keep that in mind if you're planning on doing the same. But given it's a dessert home, the ranch style building didn't have many big sets of stairs.

However, be mindful that there's not a lot to keep a young child entertained during the full 90 minutes. When I got bored, I started to make a fuss and my parents had to take turns taking me outside as the tour guide continued her explanations of the various points of interest.

And finally, cameras were allowed (and welcomed) as long as they were used outside and the photos were only used for personal use. However, all photos of the interior rooms were prohibited. Fortunately for us, we had a beautiful sunny day so my father's amateur point & click photography looked halfway decent.

The Insights Tour
As we found out, the entire property was built by Wright and his apprentices out of the stone and sand that surrounded them in the Sonoran desert on the foothills of the McDowell Mountains. Similar to the fictional Howard Roark, the modernist architect FLW wanted his structures to blend seamlessly into the natural backdrop of whatever setting he was working with.

Around the corner we saw a glimpse of the front fountain and the main building which served as FLW's personal home and work studio for the last several years of his life. Today it functions as the campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture School.

Surrounding the main building were many sculptures, landscaping and other works of art that had a strong Asian influence.

Behind the building, you found another fountain as well as a separate cabaret theater and music pavilion buildings.



Toddler Thoughts
While my father really enjoyed learning about the legendary architect, my mother was more fascinated by the eclectic artwork surrounding the property and less by the building design. As a soon to be 2 year old, however, I was probably too young to appreciate anything at all. Oh well, at least my ticket was free.

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