Posts tagged with "Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture":

Placeholder Alt Text

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.

Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

Opinion: Shame on the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

The following editorial comes courtesy of former Taliesin teaching fellow Ryan Scavnicky following the recent news that the School of Architecture at Taliesin would close come June 30 of this year. This letter is the first in a series AN will run in the following days from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. The gift shop at Taliesin West tells you everything you need to know about the closure of the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SOAT). Look around it and you will realize there is little gained by the world of architecture from a room full of tourists paying top dollar for home decor with prairie-style motifs. One can smell the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation cashing in on the aesthetic legacy produced by the work of the late architect. Meanwhile, SOAT has continued and built upon that legacy for 88 years, serving as a home base for experimental architecture and providing a counter-narrative to the sterile classrooms of state schools. Through its ups and downs SOAT remains intact and healthy, with enrollment increasing from a total student body of two to 30 in the last five years. Recently independent, on the heels of receiving a full eight-year accreditation, and re-energized by the herculean efforts of president Aaron Betsky and dean Chris Lasch, the school at Taliesin was thriving. Why then, the decision to close?  The architecture community isn’t just mourning the loss of another accredited degree-awarding machine; this is the loss of a pedagogical apparatus whose contemporary presence is in dire need. When we are in school we learn information, but we also learn life skills and craft behaviors which we model off of our colleagues and teachers. We do that outside of the classroom. In an era of infinite access to information, the “living community” of SOAT is increasingly valuable. I am grateful to have served three semesters as the Visiting Teaching Fellow, having experiences with students beyond that which is provided by typical institutions of learning today: I drove sleeping students home from a field trip to Kitt Peak Observatory, asked for help in ridding my apartment of scorpions, washed the dishes, gave a toast, played Dungeons & Dragons, learned yoga, wandered the desert to yell at God, taught Rhino, and I even performed a rendition of En Fermant Les Yeux when entertainment options were running thin. These extreme moments of “ad hoc” were intertwined with everyday life as fluidly as you can imagine. The value of education via distinct experience in today’s attention economy society is certainly worth more to the world than the ability to sell a couple more gaudy stained glass earrings. SOAT made this immensely felt, and the students I was honored to teach are now cutting-edge cultural operators.  On my first day of work, I made jokes about feeling like an Oompa Loompa—that the school’s significance was to provide scale figures to make the tourists happy. At least then I had a value that was being used in service to the field of architecture. In my experience, the current leadership at the Foundation doesn’t care about the mission of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin because they will still be able to sell $250 chess sets and tired craft classes to beady-eyed baby boomers as a stand-in for the heralded school. Do you remember the plot of the movie Major League? Released on April 7, 1989, the film follows a professional baseball team in Cleveland, Ohio. Owner Rachel Phelps secretly wants the team to tank so that she can move them to sunny Miami. She attempts to do this by intentionally staffing the organization with oddballs and misfits who all have a major flaw in their game. Spoiler alert for those who still haven’t seen this cult classic—the ball club finds out about the scheme, and with nothing to lose, the team plays above expectations, eventually winning a playoff series with the New York Yankees. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is currently playing the part of owner Phelps, attempting to publicly eschew their role in putting the final nail in the coffin of Frank Lloyd Wright's grand and timely pedagogical legacy just to line their pockets. They made a mistake hiring such capable and passionate administrators. Although SOAT pushed passed many obstacles, there is no nationally-televised game for them to win. Meanwhile, the Foundation is sitting in box seats, resting on their Usonian gravy train and toasting our collective tears. Everything in the statement released by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is accurate; but if you believe that to be the whole story then I know a Saudi Prince who would love your email address and social security number. The failure of the School of Architecture at Taliesin to agree to terms with its landlord, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, is a real tragedy and we must learn from it. The architecture community needs to be acutely aware of the value of germinating a style recognized by popular culture and what that means for future commodification. We need to be cognizant of the potential impact outsiders can have on our field who fetishize and exploit the genius of our heroes. We must claim aesthetic territory and take no prisoners securing that value to be in service of architecture, lest any more establishments like SOAT become the victims of assassination by the very institutions sworn to protect them. Correction: The article originally gave credit for the accreditation to Betsky and Lasch, however, the process had begun before they started at the school.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Frank Lloyd Wright's David and Gladys Wright House back on the market

It looked like Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiraling David and Gladys House in Phoenix, Arizona, had been saved from the wrecking ball back in June of last year, but a deal to donate the building to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture has reportedly fallen through. Now the house is back on the market for $13 million, over $10 million more than when it first went up for sale in 2012. After being purchased in 2012 by homebuilder and architecture aficionado Zach Rawling, it appeared that the house, built in 1952, would be restored and put to good use. Rawling donated the building to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin for use as a learning center and in-situ design studio, which kicked off during the 2017-2018 academic year. Although the school was able to produce videos with several well-known architects at the house and successfully complete the scheduled studios there, funding concerns seem to have scuttled the partnership. In a joint statement released in June of this year, Rawling and the school's dean Aaron Betsky announced that due to conflicting funding obligations and an uncertain timetable, the school and house would part ways.
The relationship between the School and the House is formally manifested in the David Wright House Collaborative Fund, a supporting organization of the Arizona Community Foundation. The principal focus of the David Wright House Collaborative Fund was to develop a vehicle to raise the $7-million endowment on which the pledge of the House for the benefit of the School was conditioned. Over the past year, we have learned that the fundraising timetables of both parties do not lend themselves to a joint campaign.
The original terms of the donation, which required that the school raise $7 million by 2020, proved difficult. Additionally, Phoenix residents reportedly weren’t thrilled over the potential conversion of the house into an educational facility and were worried about the traffic and noise the transformation would bring. Interested in buying a progenitor to the Guggenheim? You can put down your $12.9-million bids here. AN will follow up on this story when updates become available.
Placeholder Alt Text

Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture gifted a new Wright-designed home in Phoenix

The David and Gladys Wright House in Phoenix, Arizona, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (whose 150th would-be birthday was last week), has been donated to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The house led a charmed life up until recently. Designed in 1952 by Wright for his son David, the 2,500-square-foot, mostly concrete house had come into the ownership of developers who wanted to bulldoze it and replace it with more profitable housing. News of this intention saw preservationists spring into action, but the standard procedures were scuppered as in Arizona, where private property laws hold strong, landmarking only saves a building for three years. On October 12, 2012, Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times explained the other, costlier method of saving the house: "The other prong of attack is to find some preservation-minded angel with deep pockets who will buy it from the developer. Preferably today." Cue Zach Rawlings. A custom homebuilding entrepreneur, Rawlings fell in love with architecture after exploring it across the country with his mother. As a young boy, he even caught a glimpse of the David and Gladys Wright house when he peered over the wall. Little did he know he would later save it. During his research, Rawlings came across architects John Lautner and Wallace Cunningham, both graduates of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin, in Wisconsin. Cunningham went on to work with Rawlings. "The first chance I got to call and hire architects while building homes, I called Wallace Cunningham," the developer said. Then one evening over dinner, Cunningham informed Rawlings about an Act of Demolition permit that had been filed for the David and Gladys Wright home. "I finished the dinner, got on the phone with my mom and told her I was flying to Phoenix in the morning,” said Rawlings, reacting to the news. "I asked her to please call the broker of the home and schedule a tour as soon as possible." Twenty-four hours after Cunningham and Rawlings had sat down, Frank Lloyd Wright's work had been saved from the wrecking ball. After that dramatic episode, Rawlings went on to meet Aaron Betsky, dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin in 2015. Over more food (this time lunch), Rawlings became inspired by Betsky's ambitions for the school, and the pair discussed the possibility of faculty members living there. Now the house will be donated to a fund under the Arizona Community Foundation for the sole benefit of the School.

"It’s transformative for the school and a fantastic opportunity," Betsky told The Architect's Newspaper. "One of the things that sets our school apart is living and working in Frank Lloyd Wright's built works—this addition only enhances that experience and lets us build on Wright’s legacy."

Betsky also acknowledged that "without doubt," some work has to be done on the house before educational programming can start there. A structural analysis has been carried out, though repairs to cantilevers and fixing leaks and touching up areas of corrosion also need to take place. Phoenix-based architect Victor Sidy is working on the building, as is landscape architect Chris Winters.

Arizonan architect Eddie Jones, principal at Jones Studio, will be teaching at the design studio specifically launched for the David and Gladys House. The studio will begin this fall and students will engage in the building and its six-acre site's renovation. (Originally, when Rawlings first purchased the house, it only came with a two-and-a-half–acre lot. Rawlings then bought adjacent lots to try and restore its original acreage.)

"This is all about the house becoming a place that can help students understand the relationship between the landscape and the built environment," remarked Betsky. He estimated that renovation work could take two-three years but admitted this was "optimistic." "We do not want to interrupt the [design] work going on inside," he said. Once restored there will be limited tours, and the house will be open to the public.

Placeholder Alt Text

Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture will change its name

The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture has announced that it will change its name to the School of Architecture at Taliesin. The change comes as the school has worked to restructure and gain financial independence from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The school’s new visual identity was created by Michael Bierut, a partner at New York–based graphic design firm Pentagram. “Adopting this new name, the School of Architecture at Taliesin, helps us to secure our identity as an experimental, forward-looking architecture program that is deeply rooted in the Taliesin Fellowship,” says Aaron Betsky, dean of the School.  “The process in which we developed our new relationship with the Foundation and our accreditors has been an opportunity to closely examine who we are as a school and how to best position ourselves to advance our mission and create quality educational experiences for our students.” As the school gains its independence from the Foundation, a transition that is expected to be complete in August, the school will also undergo a leadership change. Dean Betsky will become the president of the school, and Chris Lasch, the current director of academic affairs, will take over the role of dean. As the new name would imply, the school will continue to run out of Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. Both properties are owned by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and play an important role for both the school and the foundation. “We look at Taliesin and Taliesin West as living laboratories that continue to advance Wright’s principles,” said Foundation President & CEO Stuart Graff. “Seeing the next generation of great architects working and living in these settings is as important to their preservation as maintaining the walls that hold them up.” As reported by The Architect's Newspaper, the school recently passed an important milestone towards its continued accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission approved the Change of Control application needed for the school to become independent from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, a requirement of accreditation.
Placeholder Alt Text

Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture will keep accreditation

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has approved the Change of Control application submitted by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. This approval recognizes the school as an independent entity from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, a condition for the school to maintain is accreditation as an institute of higher learning. With the HLC decision, the school will be able to continue its three-year Master of Architecture program. Along with the graduate program, the school offers additional educational programs, including an 8-week non-degree Immersion Program. The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture was first accredited with the HLC in 1987 as part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and first became an accredited architecture school in 1996. The school will now begin the transition to an independent entity by August 2017. The initial application to the HLC was submitted in February 2016. While the initial application was denied, the school worked with the HLC to revise the application, which was resubmitted November 30th, 2016. "This is really a cap on a lot of changes that have already happened. This process started more than two years ago, when it became clear that the school needed to become an interdependently accredited organization. This meant we had to raise money, but it also meant that we had to do a lot of reorganization. That was a lot of what HLC was looking at," Aaron Betsky, dean of the school, told The Architect's Newspaper. "One thing I have been working on with the faculty is figuring out how to do this in such a way that we can be the best experimental architecture school in the country. Now that we have the HLC approval, we can move ahead with our plans." Architecture schools in 19 states, including Wisconsin and Arizona (where the Frank Lloyd Wright School is held), are required to hold accreditations from the HLC as well as the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). In 2010, the HLC updated its bylaws to include a provision which required all institutions of higher learning to be financially independent of any other larger institution that does not have education as its primary mission. The school’s accreditation is valid through this year, making it imperative that it proves its independence from the foundation before it expires. The school’s NAAB accreditation is valid through 2023.
Placeholder Alt Text

Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture names Chris Lasch as Director of Academic Affairs

The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture has announced Chris Lasch will be join the faculty as Director of Academic Affairs. In addition to working with Dean Aaron Betsky to support the development of the school's curriculum and educational programs, Lasch will teach design studios and other courses. “We are excited to have Chris join us here at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture,” said Betsky in a press release. “He brings skills, experience, and international reputation that will be of invaluable importance to us as we seek to all learn how to make an architecture that is more sustainable, open, and beautiful." Lasch has been a partner at experimental design studio Aranda\Lasch since its founding in 2003. Their body of work includes buildings, installations, furniture, and objects, and their work is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture was founded by Frank Lloyd Wright and operates out of Taliesin, his former studio and estate in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The school has another location at Wright's winter home, Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture is $2 million closer to independent incorporation

In collaboration with the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation (FLWF), the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture (FLWSA) has raised more than $2 million dollars from 317 contributors. To comply with new accreditation requirements, the school is in the process of becoming an independent subsidiary of the foundation. The funds are an important milestone on the FLWSA's journey towards financial stability. The FLWSA was founded by Wright in 1932 at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The school, with a current enrollment of 19 students in its M.Arch program, is now dually located at Taliesin and Taliesin West, in Scottsdale. In 2011, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) changed its accreditation requirements, stipulating that it will no longer grant accreditation to schools which operate under umbrella institutions with "multifaceted missions." The FLWF, whose purpose is to "preserve Taliesin and Taliesin West for future generations, and enrich society through an understanding of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas, architecture, and design,” is helping the school on its mission. As part of the agreement, the foundation will loan the school classroom and residential facilities at Taliesin and Taliesin West. The FLWF will put $1.4 million over four years towards the operating costs of the school, in addition to a $7 million investment over the same period. FLWSA's dean, Aaron Betsky, outlined the direction the school will take: “We have been hard at work with the Foundation’s staff and Board to ensure the School’s future not just in financial and organizational terms, but also by improving its curriculum and by developing programs that continue Wright’s legacy in organic architecture and learning by doing in ways that answer to our needs for a more sustainable, open, and beautiful human-made environment.” Students will design and build desert shelters, as well as take newly added courses in digital fabrication, design, and theory. The school has a four year partnership with the mining towns of Miami and Globe, Arizona. Students will carry out community–based projects in those communities and in similar towns near Taliesin. To solidify accreditation, the foundation and the school board will prepare a "Change of Control" application for the HLC to review in June 2016. If the HLC approves, the foundation will file documents with state and federal agencies to legally recognize the school as an independent subsidiary of the foundation. If all goes smoothly, the process is expected to be complete by early 2017.