An 88-Year Tradition Ends At Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin
For decades, students and faculty brought the Spring Green, Wisconsin and Scottsdale, Arizona School of Architecture at Taliesin campuses to life, spending their school year split between the two. But October marked the last time attendees would migrate from one location to the other – the school announced last week it will be closing due to lack of enrollment and fundraising.
Tours and events will continue, however, at Taliesin and Taliesin West, which together draw more than 125,000 visitors a year. Both became UNESCO World Heritage sites last year.
The SoAT began as a fellowship program established by legendary Midwest architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1932, he welcomed 23 young people to his Wisconsin home and estate, which included a high school he designed for his aunts. This became the main site where his apprentices learned and lived. In 1937, inspired by the beauty of the Southwest's Sonoran desert, Wright and his students began the construction of Taliesin West.
The student experience set itself apart from a traditional college education with unique opportunities and beloved traditions like building and living in a desert shelter, cooking meals in a professional kitchen and creating in Wright's historic drafting rooms. Above all, those who attended found a tight-knit community.
Alum Michael Rust said his time at the school in the 1980s were some of the best, most exciting years of his life. Now an architect in Arizona and treasurer of alumni organization Taliesin Fellows, he described its closing as "very sad."
"Everything I do today is based on my training I received up there," he told Wisconsin Public Radio. "It's not a person, but… it was a living, breathing entity in itself."
In a statement, some former students and faculty reflected on what the school meant to them.
"Taliesin is not just an architecture school," reads the statement, posted to Facebook. "Taliesin has been our home, where we share experiences, ideas and discourses. Taliesin has been our laboratory, where we test ways to think, make and live in architecture. Taliesin has been our legacy, where we learn from history while making new history."
Despite the end of the program, the legacy of learning at Taliesin will continue.
A statement from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation says the organization is "preparing to expand educational programs for professionals and others," including K-12 students and adults. These programs "will keep the Taliesin campuses vital places for the development of organic architecture in the future."
The school will stay open through May so the 30 current students can finish the semester. A plan with Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is in the works to allow students to transfer credits and complete their degree programs.