Posts tagged with "Frank Lloyd Wright":

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The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation responds to SoAT’s decision to keep the school open

After the news broke last night that the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) had voted to reverse their decision to close the school, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation provided the following statement to AN: The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation learned through stories the School of Architecture’s lawyers had placed in the media of their change in plans to remain open based on its assessment that it has secured funding and a new path to increase enrollment. Despite having two representatives on their board, the Foundation has little information about these new income sources and programs, which remain to be vetted by the School’s accreditors, its lawyers, and its own finance committee. Questions also remain about the School’s leadership, in light of the departure of the current dean/president later this spring, and how that impacts the direction of a revised program. The Foundation believes that the timing of this most recent proposal to the School’s board, the notion of which was communicated to them shortly before its January 25 decision to close, does not reflect the careful exercise of fiduciary oversight incumbent on the organization’s Governors. The School’s announcements and lack of planning for the consequences of its earlier decision have adversely affected the lives of its employees who were terminated, generated distraction for its students from their studies and future planning, upset its alumni community, and disrupted the Foundation’s own important work. The board has demonstrated more concern about seeking blame for its decision to close than creating a sustainable business model for itself. Since the School’s initial announcement about its decision to close, the Foundation has heard from former apprentices, alumni, members of the profession and leaders of professional organizations, along with members of our community. This diverse group of stakeholders is hungry for impactful programs for training architects and design professionals in the evolving principles of organic architecture—rooted in Wright’s ideas, but applied to our present and future built environment. We have spoken with the leaders of several prominent M. Arch. programs about partnering with the Foundation to create accredited programs on the Foundation’s campuses. And we are proud that many of the ideas that we are discussing are based closely on the program of apprenticeship that was the hallmark of Wright’s Fellowship—and something absent from our campuses since Taliesin Associated Architects, the practice that was the framework of the school’s pedagogy, was closed in the mid-2000s. We will continue to advance these explorations while the School, an independent organization, is vetting its programs, and look forward to evaluating all available options to secure the future of training professionals at Taliesin and Taliesin West. Frank Lloyd Wright’s 88-year-legacy of architect training will continue at his two homes. Because of the uncertainties around the School proposal, and the lack of any direct communication from the school itself, the Foundation will have no further response until the necessary evaluations by the accreditors, attorneys, and financial stewards of the School proposals are completed and brought directly to the Foundation for consideration towards the renewal of the expiring Memorandum of Understanding. However, it is imperative if the Foundation allows for the use of Taliesin and Taliesin West by any independent organization, that the work that will occur on these two campuses, each part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, reflect both financial soundness and professional programmatic content that can advance the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. We do not intend to debate or negotiate this matter in the press or in social media and plan no further statement at this time. As always, Taliesin and Taliesin West remain open and thriving, welcoming record numbers of visitors from around the world to learn from Wright’s principles of organic architecture through the experience of his most personal designs.
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro tapped to restore Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater in Dallas

Dallas’s iconic but ailing Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only completed freestanding theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the only public Wright building in Texas, will be restored based on a master plan devised by New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). Mark Lamster, architecture critic at the Dallas Morning News, writes that the announcement, which was made by the city-owned building’s longtime tenant (and original owner) the Dallas Theater Center (DTC), comes with a “combination of optimism, trepidation, and vigilance.” Reads a statement released by DTC:
“The building has been home to DTC since its opening in 1959, and the renovation efforts aim to preserve the theater’s distinct architecture while equipping it to inspire a new generation. A steering committee made up of diverse community stakeholders selected Diller Scofidio + Renfro after a thorough selection process, and the firm —with DTC—also will create a master plan for the nine-acre Kalita Humphreys site, which will include new theater spaces and a connection to the Katy Trail.
Completed several months after Wright’s death, the Kalita Humphreys Theater is one of the final projects designed by the influential American architect. The design was technically conceived, however, decades earlier for another theater company in a project that was ultimately never realized. The theater was subsequently adapted for its current Dallas site, perched on a heavily wooded bluff above Turtle Creek, when then-fledgling regional theater company DTC approached Wright to design a venue. At the time he claimed he was too busy to design something new, and suggested that DTC use the never-completed design. The theater is named after a local actress who perished in a plane crash in 1954—a year before construction kicked off—and whose parents made a significant donation to DTC to ensure the building would be named in her memory. The building famously features a revolving stage that, in the words of DTC, “exemplifies Wright’s Organic Theory of architecture,” which stressed the unification of the building’s form and function.” The theater, which has suffered through shoddy previous renovations and years of general negligence, was declared a City of Dallas Historic Landmark Structure in 2007. In 2009, DTC relocated its administrative offices from the languishing Wright-designed building along Turtle Creek to the newly-built Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by REX | OMA, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas. The Tony Award-winning organization currently stages performances at both venues. As detailed by DTC, the master plan will entail general restoration work of Wright’s deteriorating main building as well as the creation of two new, smaller performance venues to be used by other regional theater companies. The theater will also be further incorporated into the surrounding natural landscape. “By creating new spaces and opening up the site, the new master plan will boost the natural beauty of the theater’s surroundings and improve its ability to serve as a welcoming, accessible space for all,” said DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. Texas-born Charles Renfro, working in collaboration with his partners at DS+R, will lead the project. He remarked in DTC’s announcement that:
“As a native Texan, I am particularly excited to contribute to our state’s architectural heritage and partner with Dallas Theater Center, whose bold productions are equally matched by their bold commitment to architectural innovation. This project is an opportunity to restore the Kalita Humphreys—one of Dallas’s most overlooked pieces of architecture—to its rightful place in the pantheon of design masterpieces in the city. Not only is it Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built theater, but it has also made significant contributions to the way theater has been presented and seen. “Since it was built, the theater’s bucolic setting between Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail has been overwhelmed by parking lots and roadways. Our approach will seek to slow the site down and add new architecturally significant programs grown out of the surrounding urban green. The Kalita Humphreys complex will be an idyllic and iconic refuge surrounded by nature, merely footsteps away from the bustling city.”
DTC is slated to present a master plan developed by Renfro and his colleagues to the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture by the end of this year. The Dallas City Council will then vote to give the plan final approval. The public and various local stakeholders have been invited to attend an information session to be held on March 4 at the theater, and are encouraged to provide feedback. In sharing the news, Lamster pointed out that the involvement of a firm with such a high level of prestige as DS+R is agreeable, but they have a mixed track record when it comes to preservation-based projects. He mentioned the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art and the renovation of Lincoln Center, both in New York City, involved demolishing beloved nearby spaces—a neighboring museum and public plaza, respectively. In 2018, Lamster referred to the Kalita Humphreys theater as “the most neglected, misunderstood, and mismanaged building in Dallas.” Preservation architect Ann Abernathy of advocacy group Kalita Humphreys Theater at Turtle Creek Conservancy also expressed reservations, particularly with regard to the potential for overbuilding at such a bucolic site. She told the Dallas Morning News that: “The way they’re looking to sustain this property is to build more venues, and to build an income-producing garage, and an income-producing restaurant, and by the time they do that, they lose the economic value of a property of immense cultural importance.” The renovation's estimated budget has yet to be disclosed, but as Moriarty told the Dallas Morning News, he expects “it’s gonna be a lot.” “The final figure will be contingent on the master plan, which would then require the approval of the City Council. Once that happens we will move earnestly and aggressively into fundraising,” he said. While the Kalita Humphreys Theater is the only Wright-designed public building in Texas, he did design three private homes in the Lone Star State during the last decade of his career, including a Usonian house in Dallas that was featured in the 1996 Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket. Another, located in Houston, hit the market in June 2019 with a price tag just shy of $3 million.
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Digital archive for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House now online

Six months after the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House was designated the first and only UNESCO World Heritage site in Los Angeles, The City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) has launched an extensive digital archive for the home spanning from 1918 to the present day. “Now everyone interested in Frank Lloyd Wright may view documents previously available only to scholars,” said Jeffrey Herr, DCA’s Hollyhock House curator, in a press release at launch. “Always stretching technology, Frank Lloyd Wright would be delighted with digital technology and the increased dissemination of his work."
Over 500 drawings, blueprints, and related items of historical documentation are now publicly accessible for the first time, giving the public another method of exploring the home following the debut of its Virtual Accessibility Experience and the self-guided tours available to the public four days a week. The online archive adds a significant amount of history concerning the many renovations, restorations, architectural details, furnishing, and the building additions on the 36-acre property. “The Department of Cultural Affairs is thrilled for the opportunity to make this archive material available to those interested in Aline Barnsdall's vision and Frank Lloyd Wright's work,” said Danielle Brazell, general manager of the DCA, in a press release. “Viewing the collection gives anyone interested in the history of the property a deeper understanding.” While highlights include schematic site maps and perspective renderings from the architect himself, the public archive also contains plenty of minutia for the Wright-obsessed, including an electrical schedule blueprint and plenty of corbel details. The home was completed in 1921 for the art collector and socialite Aline Barnsdall, who gave it up to the city shortly afterward in 1927 under the condition that the California Art Club could use the site as its headquarters through a fifteen-year lease. After the club relocated in 1942, the site was renamed Barnsdall Park and has since hosted several public events and exhibition spaces, including the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG).
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Students react to the School of Architecture at Taliesin’s closing

In this final letter to the editor in the series, the students of the School of Architecture at Taliesin weigh in on the institution’s closure.

“It is not enough to leave behind you monuments of buildings, you owe it to future generations to leave monuments of human beings” - Olgivanna Lloyd Wright

The imminent closure of the School of Architecture at Taliesin has left its student body stunned and deeply distraught. To discontinue 88 years of an alternative pedagogical model is at least as destructive as the demolition of a physical architectural masterwork. To close this school is to dismantle one of the great visions and traditions of the past century; and to preserve the culture that sustains a built environment such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin is equivalent in importance to any material evidence of history. A building is merely a shell if void of those who keep its legacy alive.

Beyond losing our school we are losing our home, our deeply interwoven community, and the chance to pursue our education at a truly unique, experimental institution: A platform designed to express pedagogy as a way of life. As graduate students in the year 2020, we have been incredibly fortunate to experience an education that transcends the classroom. At the School of Architecture at Taliesin, we live in shelters in the Sonoran Desert built by our colleagues and predecessors. We wake with the sun beaming over the mountain and the choir of the quails. We cook meals for each other, enjoying the bonds of communal living which have united humans throughout history and which are increasingly rare in our culture today. On the same day that we might troubleshoot a 3D printer, we troubleshoot fires to keep warm at night. The experience of living fundamentally with nature and with each other, literally building the roofs over our own heads while learning current software and design methodologies, is profound and represents what it means to be a student here. This community of Taliesin students, along with our esteemed Fellows and alumni, are the living embodiment of a legacy.

Designing an architectural education as a holistic approach to life was part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fellowship from its inception, and is the way he and Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, who played a coequal role in the development of the Fellowship, intended for the legacy to be maintained. From the beginning of the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932, “the apprentices participated in the construction, operation, and maintenance of the school, including raising the food which sustained them.” The notion that the Taliesin campuses would cease to be a training ground for future architects is antithetical to the ethos of the Wrights’ creation. It would be a powerful loss not only to their legacy but to the future of the profession itself. The philosophy of “learning by doing” is as consequential as ever, in an era in which architectural theory and practical knowledge are increasingly divorced. The education at the School of Architecture at Taliesin bridges this critical gap.

From our perspective, the destruction of this profound legacy and jewel in the American cultural landscape is a preventable disaster. The end of this great institution is not a foregone conclusion, and we feel the results of this outcome do not reflect the best interests of the school, its students and faculty, and the vision of Frank Lloyd Wright.

We are exceedingly grateful to all of the individuals and institutions who have reached out to extend their support and offers of opportunity moving forward, and we look forward to new relationships blossoming as a result of this tragic fissure. However, we feel that there is no replacement for what will be lost in closing the School of Architecture at Taliesin, and no other experience that replicates what we sought in coming here. We have made this educational investment in order to earn our Master of Architecture degrees, and a solution which does not include the conference of accredited degrees, such as staying at Taliesin through a non-accredited program, is no solution at all. The alternative transition to finish our degrees elsewhere is not only disruptive to the fabric of our lives as individuals and as a community but deprives many of us of the opportunity to realize the education in which we have invested so deeply.

The School of Architecture at Taliesin is a seed, planted in a living soil: this is the unique condition that generates visionary architects, with sustainable ethics and sensibilities. We feel a deep calling to speak on behalf of not only ourselves, but of the many people who have built this community over past generations and who continue to embody its ideals of operating collectively, locally, and intelligently to support one another. In Wright’s own sentiments “[people] derive countenance and sustenance from the ‘atmosphere’ of the things they live in or with. They are rooted in them just as a plant is in the soil.”

If this community and great tradition were to be uprooted, it is not only the constituents of the school who will suffer but the idealism and altruism that are woven into one of Wright’s most outstanding creations.

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Opinion: To close The School of Architecture at Taliesin is to kill the experimental legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright

The following letter to the editor comes courtesy of Cruz García and Nathalie Frankowski. García and Frankowski are former Visiting Teaching Fellows at The School of Architecture at Taliesin, codirectors of WAI Architecture Think Tank, and current Ann Kalla Professors at the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. This is the fourth in a series AN from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. Last week we got some horrible news. The School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) would close by the summer of 2020. Our former home would officially become a museum, our former students would be left without their beloved school, the opportunity to educate future architects would disappear, and the unique offerings of an almost century-old institution would melt into air. Why, at the moment when the school seemed so vivid, the student work so exciting, and the educational programs so transcendental are we facing this fate? We paid close attention to the official announcements made by The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, former students, faculty, followers, but among the many questions, letters, complaints, and affirmations published by many parties since the fateful announcement, one thing remains unclear: what would be lost if the school closes? The following are five points about what will be lost with the closure The School of Architecture at Taliesin: 1: Without Accreditation in the United States, you can’t have an Architecture School Losing accreditation means losing all legitimacy in the formal education of architects under the current certification and licensing system. Contrary to the claims of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the legacy of the institution they claim to protect cannot be safeguarded with K-12 education and sporadic arts and craft workshops, that although necessary programs of outreach, won’t satisfy the required steps for the education of future architects. In his will signed on April 25, 1958, Frank Lloyd Wright stated the direct relationship between the Foundation and the education of Architects: ‘Since their inception the Foundation and the Fellowship have operated as the equivalent of a college in the preparation of American architects in which capacity they have rendered full service the past twenty-five years.’ Denying the students of the opportunity to at least obtain a diploma of equal value to a University rests legitimacy to a program devised to train future architects with critical thinking, technical and material skills. If the School follows the demand of the Foundation and loses its accreditation, it will lose all forms of professional, academic, and intellectual legitimacy. Without an architecture school, the Foundation can offer educational programs but cannot formally ‘prepare architects’, thus opposing the very reason the foundation was assembled by Frank Lloyd Wright. 2: Taliesin is one of the smallest schools with the most organic offerings. Lead by president Aaron Betsky, Dean Chris Lasch, a dynamic Faculty, and an enthusiastic group of students, Taliesin boasts with an incredible array of projects, initiatives, publications, and events that have brought it back to the center stage of contemporary architectural relevance. The spatial limitations of the premises (operating between Historical landmarks), and the necessity to oscillate mid-year between the Taliesin Campus in Spring Green, Wisconsin (too cold in the winter), and the Taliesin West Campus in Scottsdale, Arizona (too hot in the summer), create a series of unique opportunities for the students and faculty to migrate and in the journey experience some of the most stunning landscapes in North America. In the two campuses students and resident faculty assist with the maintenance of the fields, the kitchen, and events like lectures, and dinners, thus creating a self-sustaining community where architectural thinking and discourse are at the center stage every day of the week. Sharing living spaces with Taliesin fellows like Jane Houston (Minerva Montooth) who was Olgivanna Lloyd Wright’s personal assistant, Indira Berndtson, whose mother Cornelia Brierly worked on the plan for Broadacre City, or painter and musician Effie Cassey, guarantees that the legacy of Taliesin is shared among generations living, breathing, thinking, and making architecture in these spaces. What can be more organic than learning like this? As quoted from the recent manifesto published by former faculty and students: “Organic are the ways the students, faculty, staff, former fellows, and the community at Taliesin learn from the landscapes of the rolling hills and prairies in Wisconsin, and the wild, blossoming desert in Arizona. Organic are the histories that are shared and the life that is lived in Taliesin. Organic are the experiments that the students execute living with and in nature, in their buildings that find new ways to relate to their material, historical, and architectural contexts. Organic are the future architectures to be devised by those who have lived and been educated at Taliesin.” 3: The learning intensity is unmatched Imagine being one of twenty students and spending several days a semester listening to lectures and exchanging ideas in the dining room with Tatiana Bilbao, David Adjaye, Wolff D. Prix, Hernan Diaz Alonso, Erin Besler, Lise Ann Couture, Michiel Riedjik, and Frank Gehry, among others. Imagine learning about the work and discussing ideas with these practitioners to then publish these exchanges in WASH Magazine, a Graham Foundation grantee student-run publication. Imagine living in constant contact with established and new positions and discourses. The School of Architecture at Taliesin is part of the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright but avoids reducing the experience of learning and practicing architecture to the mere aesthetic imitation of the late architect. Instead, the School anchors its foundations on the rich past of the two historical sites and the people that live in them while enriching them with a diverse plethora of ideas and positions of local and global relevance to the discipline of architecture. 4: Taliesin redefines design-build Challenging the design-build model across the country where students are often subordinated to the role of draftspeople while the professors take the accolades and awards, at Taliesin the students design and build (with their own hands) the shelters where they live during half of the Fall Semester and the Full spring semester. Recent projects like ‘Branch’, a rammed earth minimalist cube designed and built by Conor Denison, ‘Site 168’, Richard Quittenton’s post-internet take on desert concrete and Organic aesthetics, ‘Lander’, a commentary on dark ecologies and surveillance culture by Jan Sobotka, ‘Dwelling 17’, a built ontology of found contemporary desert objects constructed by Nelson Schleiff, ‘Ava’, an inhabitable miniature wooden palace built by Liu Xinxuan, and ‘Tali-Beach’, a student lounge built by Jose Amaya on the former ruins of a derelict structure in the desert, are just some of the latest shelter-thesis constructed by the most recent class of graduates. These students are not only going out to the world with the unique experience of living and learning in Taliesin for several years, but they have built architectural experiments for minimal and sustainable living as one of their many accolades. Through this hands-on learning-by-doing approach the students at Taliesin have also been able to offer practical, real, and innovative ideas to communities, like the recent project to transform a discarded early twentieth-century school into a teacher-preferable residential compound and community center in the town of Miami, Arizona. 5: Closing the school is an attack on architectural education In the current political and social climate, with ballooning tuition fees, the elimination of art programs across many higher learning institutions, and the deformation of educational institutions into businesses, the threat launched against The School of Architecture at Taliesin should be of concern to us all. The demand of the Foundation that The School of Architecture drops its accreditation shows a lack of understanding of the complexities and challenges inherent to the education of future architects. Assuming that Taliesin can be reduced to ‘organic’ slogans, aesthetics, and products may be a profitable business model, but abandoning a robust academic curriculum presents a toxic menace to critical inquiry, curiosity, and experimentation. Taliesin is an institution founded on a culture of critical rebelliousness that rejects, in the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, ‘little art of any but the most superficial kind—the formula or the fashion’, because ‘the capacity for spiritual rebellion has grown small and the present ideals of success are making it smaller every day.’ The tone-deaf insistence of the Foundation, in claiming that it will be offering other forms of education once the School closes instead of doing everything possible to keep alive the one thing Frank Lloyd Wright created the foundation for, shows that the leadership of the foundation doesn’t get it and is on the way to destroy the legacy it claims to protect. To close with words by Frank Lloyd Wright: “We don’t use the word organic as referring as something hanging in the butcher shop, organic means in philosophical sense, entity, where the whole is to the part and the part is to the whole.” By closing the School of Architecture, Taliesin can’t be whole.
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Letter to the editor: Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy will continue at Taliesin

The following letter to the editor comes courtesy of Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. This is the third in a series AN from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. In 1932, Frank Lloyd Wright created the Taliesin Fellowship, a community of apprentices and their families who lived, worked and studied with Wright first at Taliesin in Wisconsin and later also at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. The program provided a total learning environment integrating all aspects of the apprentices’ lives with the intent of educating responsible, creative, and cultured human beings and building professionals. Over time, and after the Frank Lloyd Wright’s (1959) and Olgivanna Lloyd Wright’s passing (1985), the Fellowship transformed into a more formal architectural firm and institution of learning, and most recently an accredited and fully independent small college, continuing to operate at the both Taliesin and Taliesin West. This week, the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) announced that it was unable to continue its operations, and would be closing its doors at the end of the spring semester in June. That decision could be made only by the school itself, and not by the Foundation, which is committed to finding ways to continue the legacy of education that Wright intended at his homes. Taliesin and Taliesin West remain open and thriving. In the frenzy of the week’s announcement, some misinformation has been spread about how the decision to close the School came to be. Let’s set the record straight. The Foundation is committed to keeping the two Taliesin campuses as living sites—where people make architecture and learn design from nature and the experience of working at an inspiring complex of buildings. We are the largest financial supporter of the School, donating over the last several years shared services and the free use of our campuses to facilitate SoAT’s health and support its growth, and to fulfill the commitment of preserving the Taliesins to maintain them as living sites that are at the heart of the community. But to fulfill this commitment for the future, the Foundation needs to have a solid plan for programs that do this work, precisely so we aren’t a pair of “mere house museums.” SoAT is a completely separate entity from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. It was made an independent organization because its accrediting body insisted that SoAT be capable of standing on its own, financially and academically, and no longer be dependent on the Foundation for support. Two representatives from the Foundation serve on the SoAT Board of Governors, so the Foundation has been conversant with the school’s operational challenges. From the moment it became independent, SoAT built its budgets on aspirational, but unrealistic, projections for enrollment and fundraising that consistently weren’t met, leaving the School scrambling for operating and investment funds. The School later came back to the Foundation to request funding. We explained that we could not divert funds donated for preservation and other programs since these were needed to keep the historically fragile buildings’ infrastructure (that serves the School and our visitors) in good service. The Foundation does not have large cash reserves, and like most cultural organizations in the Valley, it too has to borrow money to cover the summer months when revenues fall. By mid-Spring of 2019, SoAT financial projections were so bleak that the SoAT Board made the decision to close its doors in August 2019 if student enrollment for the fall had not met a critical threshold by June 30, giving their students less than two months notice. Therefore, it was not unanticipated when Dan Schweiker acknowledged to the Foundation leadership in early November that the School’s business model was, in his words, not sustainable. He asked us to extend the donation of our facilities at no cost for as long as two years so that he could explore a new model that would include assembling a new board, eliminate accredited programs, move the School off of the Taliesin campuses entirely or used them only part-time, and/or merge the School back into the Foundation. Over many weeks thereafter, the Foundation asked Schweiker for guidance as to the School’s direction—without a meaningful response. In the meantime, the School’s President, Aaron Betsky, had tendered his resignation to be effective as of May—leaving the School with no defined business model and no leadership in addition to inadequate funding. Finally, in a mid-January meeting at Taliesin West with Schweiker, SoAT vice-chair Jacki Lynn, and the Foundation leadership, a plan was worked out based on a deep and shared commitment to maintain the dual legacy of cultural enrichment and professional education at Taliesin and Taliesin West. Contrary to what Schweiker and Lynn told The Architect’s Newspaper, that agreement provided for current second- and third-year students to complete their accredited degrees at the School and on our campuses; first-year students could accelerate their programs to graduate with accredited degrees as well. SoAT and the Foundation would also collaborate to create new programs to carry Wright’s legacy forward through hands-on education for architects, designers, and the interested public. Because these new programs wouldn’t require accreditation, we could save costs by bringing the School back into Wright’s Foundation. After a productive meeting, we stood together in my office and shook hands, congratulated one another on creating a successful path forward, which Schweiker and Lynn agreed to recommend and support before the SoAT Board. But this agreed-upon plan was neither recommended nor supported by them. Instead, that Board was presented with yet another financially speculative program to try to save the School, offering hopeful dreams as an alternative to a concrete path to a sustainable future. Rather than approve the agreed-upon plan and provide certainty for the students’ education and well-being, the SoAT Board chose to close the school and blame the Foundation for a failure to come to an agreement. To be clear: the Foundation sought a plan to transform the School for the 21st Century; the SoAT board voted instead to close the School. This decision to close was not communicated to the Foundation until we read the School’s press release. The School later came up with a new excuse for their decision; that the one-year extension to which they had agreed just one week earlier “was not financially feasible,” leaving unclear how they could have funded the two-year extension they proposed in November. Because SoAT is still struggling to figure out how to stay open through May, the Foundation has agreed again to donate shared services to reduce the School’s costs and ensure the students are as well served as possible under the circumstances. The Foundation will return to extending Wright’s legacy of educating architects, keeping the life and the spirit of what he created front and center at both Taliesin and Taliesin West. That legacy includes continuing the training of architects, preservation specialists, design professionals, and the interested public—all in the same spaces where he created the world’s most celebrated architecture. Since the School’s announcement, we have welcomed and opened dialogues with potential partners to create a new and sustainable educational model rooted in Wright’s ideas, and we will announce those plans when they are finalized. And we will keep the two Taliesin campuses as the places that Wright wanted them to be: Vibrant places where we advance the way we build and live, designing the future in harmony with the landscape, incorporating the arts in our work and our lives, building community. Wright said that “The mission of an architect is to help people understand how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme, and meaning to life.” That’s what we do at the Foundation he created, and we’ll do that for as long as we are able.
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Letter to the editor: A sad day for Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy

The following letter to the editor comes courtesy of Jacki Lynn and Dan Schweiker, who serve on the Governing Board of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. This letter is the second in a series AN will run in the following days from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. We want to set the record straight and offer facts and perspective to the heart-wrenching decision to close the School of Architecture at Taliesin. The decision to close the venerable school, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for organic and sustainable architecture, came only after our Governing Board exhausted all options in trying to craft an agreement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Unfortunately for Mr. Wright’s legacy, an agreement with the Foundation did not happen. We approached the Foundation with a proposal to extend the Memorandum Of Understanding for an additional two years under its current terms while we explored options to enhance the school’s viability and still allow the Foundation to more fully utilize the school’s spaces. Our goal was to reach a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with the Foundation to keep the school open. The Foundation presented our school with two options. One was to close the school when the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) expired this summer. The Foundation’s other option was to keep the School of Architecture at Taliesin open for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Foundation wanted the school to immediately terminate our accreditation under those terms. The Foundation also wanted the school to then help create a new non-accredited program to be run by the former. We took those proposals to our full Governing Board for serious consideration. We soon realized that terminating accreditations for our graduate architecture programs would immediately result in the loss of current and prospective students. Those students need to be part of accredited programs to reach their degree objectives. The school would have also lost our financial donors with the announcement of the school’s closure; simply put, the school would not survive the 2020-2012 academic year under those dynamics. Our Governing Board felt a duty to sadly wind down operations after this semester while the school was still financially solvent. The Governing Board’s independent members, which are all of our Governing Board members with the exception of the two Board Members from the Foundation, all voted unanimously to close the school after this summer. It was a sad and difficult decision but a necessary one considering the untenable options. We also did not feel comfortable putting our staff, students and board members in the position of providing their expertise and deep wells of knowledge to help the Foundation establish a new non-accredited program. Our Governing Board did present some new funding options to extend our operating agreement with the Foundation. Those plans included guaranteed funding from another program. The Foundation opted not to accept the funding options to keep the school operating. The School of Architecture at Taliesin (which was previously the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture) has been a critical part of Mr. Wright’s legacy for 88 years. Our school was dedicated to furthering Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for ‘organic architecture’ and better connecting design and our human experience to the natural world. More than 1,200 architects and designers studied under Mr. Wright and at the school. We focused on designing more than buildings and boxes. Our school and our students focused on how to better live with the natural environment, including the Sonoran Desert here in Arizona. We focused on how to change the world. We and the Foundation are working together with Arizona State University so our current students can transfer credits to the Design School at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, as established in concept in 2014 when the School was operated as part of the Foundation. Our Governing Board was deeply saddened to make this decision. We were left with no other options. The end result is a sorrowful day for architecture and for Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy.
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture at Taliesin will close

After 88 years in operation, the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) will be closing its doors when the spring semester ends. The Governing Board of the organization said in a statement that it wasn’t able to align with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation on a plan to develop alternative educational programs over the next year and a half, and will be forced to transfer its remaining 30 students to the nearby Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.  “This is a sad and somber day for our school, our students, and staff, and the architecture community,” said Dan Schweiker, chairperson of the board. “Our innovative school and its mission were integral to Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for connecting architecture to our natural world. Wright’s legacy was not just building. It was a school to promulgate the lessons for all future generations...We did everything possible to fight for its survival but due to other forces it was not meant to be.” Established in 1932, Taliesin has been home to over 1,200 architects who lived and worked alongside Wright and his contemporaries, furthering the practice of “organic architecture.” Students immersed themselves in study while splitting their time between two iconic Wright-designed spaces at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Taliesin East in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Prior to making the decision to close, leadership at both the Foundation and the school had created proposals to allow the institution to continue operations on both campuses through the end of July next year, a period during which, according to the Foundation, they were going to come up with alternative programming that wouldn't need to be accredited. “The Foundation had reached an agreement with the leaders of the SoAT Board that would have allowed for second- and third-year students to complete their education at Taliesin and Taliesin West, and we are disappointed that it was not approved by the full SoAT Board,” said Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Foundation. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is based out of Scottsdale and is charged with preserving both Taliesin West and East and providing educational STEAM programming inspired by the principles of organic architecture. It is a separate entity from the SoAT, which had to be regularly accredited by several boards and commissions in order to be fully operational. According to a statement by the Foundation, the decision to close the esteemed institution was made because the school “did not have a sustainable business model that would allow it to maintain its operations as an accredited program.” Now that the school is closing, the Foundation said it will expand its educational programming for K-12 students and professionals while continuing to promote Wright's legacy and vision. “The Foundation wants to ensure that it has the ability to work with a variety of partners,” it said, “to develop professional education programs for architects, preservation specialists, and design professionals that will keep the Taliesin campuses vital places for the development of organic architecture in the future.”
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Loitering takes center stage in Los Angeles

Taking up space, it seems, is among the most actively policed crimes in America today. Sidewalk infrastructure prohibits extended stays through the punitive additions of spikes and dividers, cafes are inviting so long as one exchanges their stay for the purchase of food or drink, and the browsing experience in retail settings is regularly guarded. The library and the park, in fact, are the last few public places today where a person can while away time without paying a price, and even these two are threatened by diminishing public investment. An exhibition just held at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG), set within a public park of its own, reappraises the concept of loitering to define it as a necessary—and, sometimes, even beautiful—part of the human experience. Curated by Ciara Moloney, Loitering is Delightful presented the work of ten Los Angeles artists who "respond in varying ways to the joyful possibilities of slowing down." One of the first pieces visitors encountered, for instance, was Untitled (Municipal Boxes), a plywood platform and set of furniture pieces from Lauren Davis Fisher that visitors were encouraged to interact with. The artist noticed that the gallery's concrete architecture, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House on the other side of the park, had an imposing effect on visitors and hoped to counteract this experience with an installation made entirely of wood, a material known to have a generally inviting tactile quality. Quite literally, the piece's presence in the center of the gallery put loitering on the center stage. A series of rooms featured elegant pencil drawings and dioramas of imaginary neo-classical buildings fabricated by artist Milano Chow that recalled a bygone era of architectural design that openly embraced fantasy, delight, and open-ended contemplation. Their highly detailed draftsmanship encouraged the viewer to linger in the gallery space, getting lost in their ornamentation, and, hopefully, losing track of time. At the end of the exhibition was a bulletin board covered by a slew of post-it notes answering the question "Where do you like to loiter in Los Angeles?" Answers included L.A.-centric responses such as, "my car," and "Zuma Beach," while the majority of others gave evidence to the fact that parks and libraries truly are the last few places a person can truly feel they are not unduly taking up space. Loitering is Delightful was on display from October 31, 2019 to January 12, 2020.
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David Hartt brings the tropics to Frank Lloyd Wright's Beth Sholom Synagogue

Orchids sprout their spindly stems skywards in search of water on rainy days. Leaves bunch in boxes, fighting one another for space in the light, vibrant pink. Not so distantly, a piano can be heard. This is the scene at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. It is a scene reminiscent of the lush floral paintings of Martin Johnson Heade, a citation noted by David Hartt, the artist behind this installation, The Histories (Le Mancenillier), on view at the synagogue through December 19. (Other references include the classical historian Herodotus, the Creole-Jewish composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and the Canadian experimental filmmaker Michael Snow). Heade was born not 25 miles from where the synagogue stands today, however, he traveled widely, visiting Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia, and other locales to create sensitive paintings of misty miniature worlds, all orchids and bugs and hummingbirds—a migratory creature with symbolic “affinity to abolitionist movement,” according to Hartt. Heade was himself a prominent abolitionist. Hartt too traveled for this work, filming scenes of waving foliage in Haiti and Louisiana for videos on display on two 98-inch monitors. The orchids, however, were filmed in his Philadelphia studio; a seed can travel far, after all. Movement, displacement, diaspora, and homebuilding figure and reconfigure themselves in The Histories. Hartt was inspired by discovering that the Beth Sholom congregation’s original home in Philadelphia’s Logan neighborhood now serves as the home of a Black evangelical congregation. During the mass suburbanization that took hold of America after the Second World War, which coincided with the so-called “Synagogue Boom,” the congregation moved, enlisting Wright to build their new home, which would be completed just after his death in 1959. With its shocking pyramid form, designed to be in Wright’s words “luminous Mount Sinai,” it’s the only synagogue Wright ever built. Curated by the Glass House’s Cole Akers, The Histories (Le Mancenillier), overtakes the Wright’s bold structure without overwhelming it. Entering through the back, as most people do, you’ll encounter a large flat screen on black scaffolding, about human height, though much larger than any human being. On it, plants move and flow, including orchids and fronds. An occasional white X flashes across the screen, a reference to Snow, whose structuralist films considered the presence of the camera and materiality of that more analog medium. Video is not as tangible a thing as celluloid film, and so here the X seems to index the physicality of the screens (another monitor be found, oriented vertically, across the synagogue). These TVs are more sculptures than frames. While at times the view in the videos is fixed, trained watchfully on fronds swaying in brackish water, other times they float and flutter with videos taken by choreographed drones and flipped upside-down. In planters where artificial plants once sat, Hartt has inserted live tropical flora lit with pink grow lights to keep them alive in the subterranean settings. In the main sanctuary, a jaw-dropping theatrical space with a glass roof soaring 110 feet above, orchids have been placed throughout: on the floor, over chairs, and on large tables straddling whole swaths of seats. The roof, impressive as it might be, leaks. When Hartt first encountered the synagogue, there were buckets and kiddie pools placed throughout to collect rainwater and snowmelt. The orchids serve as a more expressive and a no less functional replacement.  What is the medium of a building, of architectural experience? In conversations with Hartt, he said that he had been thinking about Wright’s notion of “total design”—of not just creating the architecture of a building, but the architecture of living, down to the smallest details. The exhibition's two tapestries perhaps evince the clearest example of this. Classic design objects and textiles make physical the most immaterial of things. Light hitting a camera sensor, the semiconductors revealing the facts of themselves as pixels, become most obvious in the fabric forest and lens flare hanging in one room. The Histories is not just objects. Music is central to the exhibition, with renditions of Gottschalk’s music, as recorded by Ethiopian pianist Girma Yifrashewa, playing in the main sanctuary, not only creating a new sonic texture, but building on the exhibition’s story of hybridization, travel, and transmission. Gottschalk had a mixed-race and mixed-faith background and synthesized European and African-American musical traditions, spending much of his life outside the United States. As Gottschalk serves as a “cipher” for Hartt, music serves as an anchor for the exhibition. Hartt invited Yifrashewa, who trained in Bulgaria, to score the exhibition with Gottschalk’s music. In addition, performers were invited in throughout the exhibition’s run and a piano and mixer on display serve as a sort of sculptural intervention that constantly hint at latent performative possibilities. Hartt describes his artistic process as “peripatetic,” both intellectually and formally, but also spatially. At home in transit, Hartt traces shifting vectors of time and space that despite their motion, become the stabilizing forces that create communities. But these flights are fraught. Drone footage and landscape travel paintings can show new sights and celebrate the richness of life, but they can also serve to surveil or as colonial capture. The conditions that create diaspora are often stories of painful displacement, which might serve in some ways as unifying forces for this primarily white Jewish congregation and the Black church that replaced their former home, but the synagogue also stands as an index to the white flight suburbanization that took place in the 20th century. History, this exhibition's subject, is a story of entanglements and estrangements that echo into the hybrid present. The installation’s parenthetical title, Le Mancenillier, wryly acknowledges this messiness. It refers to both a song by Gottschalk, and to the Caribbean manchineel tree, which produces a fruit that the Christopher Columbus referred to as the death apple: it is enticingly sweet, and deadly. David Hartt: The Histories (Le Mancenillier) Through December 19 Beth Sholom Synagogue Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
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Currier Museum of Art acquires a second Frank Lloyd Wright home

New Hampshire’s Currier Museum of Art announced on November 14 that they will be adding a second Frank Lloyd Wright house to their permanent collection, making the institution the sole museum in the world to own two of “America’s most important architect’s” buildings.  The Toufic H. Kalil House is one of seven Usonian Automatic homes ever built and was put on the market this past September for $850,000. An anonymous donor provided the museum with $970,000 in funds to acquire the property and make it accessible to the public.  “This generous donation is a tribute to the philanthropy in our state, and serves as an example for others,” said Steve Duprey, president of the museum’s Board of Trustees, in a press release, which went on to say that with “the impending sale of the Kalil House, there was a real danger that it might be altered, moved away, or even torn down.”  The house is located at 117 Heather Street in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was built in 1955 with Wright’s patented technique of individually-cast interlocking concrete blocks reinforced with rods set into the walls and roof. The system stemmed from Wright’s larger vision for more democratic design and planning of modern architecture for middle-class America. Such houses were designed with the idea that home buyers could construct the homes themselves out of a kit.  Wright designed approximately 60 homes under the name “Usonian” including the seven Usonian Automatics. The term was used throughout his work to refer to the United States, as opposed to the term America, which of course also includes Mexico and Canada. For Wright, Usonian architecture was to be set apart from all previous “American” architectural conventions specifically.  Usonian houses, including the Kalil House, were typically small, single-story dwellings with an L-shaped plan. They made use of natural light, local materials, flat roofs, and radiant floor heating. The Kalil House, a 1,406-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house meets all of these requirements and, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, still includes much of the architect’s original furniture, textiles, and kitchen appliances. The house’s mahogany clad interior is illuminated by 350 individual glass windows, both fixed and operable.  While many of the features have been maintained, the house has also received updates to the roof, landscaping, and back patio. An unfinished, 264-square-foot guest home is located behind the house and was constructed in the same modular construction technique.  The Kalil’s were inspired to build the home after seeing their friend’s FLW-designed home just three doors down the street. The Zimmerman House was also acquired by the museum in 1988 as noted in the owner’s will, alongside an operating endowment for the building's maintenance.  Currier Museum’s director, Alan Chong stated in the press release, “Although they are about the same size and on the same street, the Zimmerman and Kalil houses are very different in character... Frank Lloyd Wright intended his Usonian designs to be affordable to the broader American public, but each is a distinctive work of art.” Just like the Zimmerman House, the Kalil house will be preserved and opened up for guided tours next April.
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revival-style Ennis House finally finds a buyer

The Ennis House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revival masterpiece tucked into the hills of Los Feliz, has traded hands more than one can count. After being placed on the market for $23 million last June, the home has once again found an owner in an unnamed buyer for $18 million. Though it went for roughly 22 percent below the initial asking price, the sale reflects a number of records beat: it is both the most expensive property to be sold in the neighborhood and the priciest Wright-designed home in history by more than $11 million (the second most expensive being the Storer House, which sold for $6.8 million in the Hollywood Hills). The 6,200-square-foot home sold for such a high price thanks in part to the completion of a $17 million renovation over six years, initiated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and severe water damage that incurred in 2005, which required the replacement and repair of nearly 3,000 of the home's 27,000 concrete blocks as well as the creation of a new structural frame. The home’s role in over 80 movies and television shows including Mulholland Drive, The Rocketeer, Rush Hour, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beverly Hills Cop II, and, of course, Blade Runner, likely contributed to its inflated price tag as well. It is unclear whether the buyer will open the house to the public for tours, as it has been in the past, or if it will function as the buyer’s private residence. The home, after all, does contain a wealth of features fit for a millionaire, including a motor court, a screening room with a wet bar, a koi pond, and sweeping views of Los Angeles accessible via a number of balconies and platforms.