By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Apr 21, 2004 at 5:36 AM

{image1} SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- The legacy of world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright is evident across the state of Wisconsin, from his home in Spring Green to the modernist Greek Annunciation Church and the sleek and sturdy Bogk House in Milwaukee -- and everywhere in between. Considered by many to be the greatest architect of the 20th century, his work is still seen all over the country and around the world, but nowhere is it as prominent as in Wisconsin and Illinois.

But Wright, like so many Midwesterners, found winters here too disagreeable. So, in 1937 at the age of 70, he packed up and left Spring Green's Taliesin and headed west to Arizona. That's where he built Taliesin West, a bold concept in desert living, nestled in the foothills of Scottsdale's McDowell Mountains. Situated on 600 acres of rugged Sonoran desert, Taliesin West was Wright's little piece of Wisconsin out west.

If you've ever taken the tour of Wright's school and home in Spring Green, Taliesin West will evoke many similarities. The first obvious sign that the two are cut from the same cloth is the abundance of Cherokee Red. Wright's favorite shade, he patented the hue and saturated his homes, his cars and his furniture in the color.

Also like its Wisconsin counterpart, Taliesin West maintains a low profile and is constructed entirely of local materials that Wright and his apprentices literally brought down from the mountain in his backyard. Taliesin means "shining brow" in Welsh; his caravan used hundreds of cords of stone, cement, redwood and shot white canvas in its building process.

Typical of his design philosophy of "organic architecture," the studio feels more like a part of its surrounding landscape than a building atop it. "Our new desert camp belonged to the Arizona desert as though it had stood there during creation," Wright said at the time.


But Taliesin West, like the original Taliesin, is more than just a memorial to Wright, who died in 1959 at the age of 91. Both homes are architectural schools, also.

Taliesin West is the national headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the School of Architecture (which uses both locations as its campuses) and the Archives. Today, about 70 people live, work and study at the encampment outside Phoenix, literally setting up tents in the desert to dwell in during their first year of school.

Walk around the complex and you see that it's beautiful but not always practical -- the embodiment of the stubborn, sometimes cocky, but always brilliant Wright. Its ceilings and walkways are low, making the tours challenging for those over six feet (the diminutive Wright built the house for himself, not for his visitors). Certain elements haven't stood the test of time, either, but a few cracks and stains don't take away from the overall splendor.

Because Taliesin West isn't a stodgy museum -- rather it's a living and breathing school, it continues to evolve. The complex is home to a full-sized theater for performing arts, and Mrs. Wright's famous fire-breathing dragon sculpture still entertains at parties.


And that's just the beginning of it. Wright designed 1,1191 works during his lifetime, including architecture, furniture, lamps, fabrics, carpets, china, silver and graphic designs. More than 500 of his building designs were constructed, too. The on-site archives are a virtual library of this remarkable man's work. Much of it can be seen during one of a variety of site tours.

Different tours are offered seasonally, but if you're out there, make sure to take at least the 90-minute walk through the complex. Like its counterpart in Spring Green, the volunteer guides are exceptionally knowledgeable and passionate about Taliesin and can answer just about any question you toss their way.

Taliesin West is located at the intersection of Cactus Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard (114th St.) in Scottsdale, Ariz. For tour reservations, call (480) 860-2700.

The Web site for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.