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Taliesen
Highway 23
Spring Green
Wisconsin

Frank Lloyd Wright 1911-1938

Taliesin in Spring Green (as opposed to its winter address, Taliesin West in Arizona) is a six-hundred acre, odd and well-attended mix of preserved national resource and temporary home for apprentices.

Taliesen is a rustic constellation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wisconsin home, School of Architecture, theater, etc. (altogether referred to as "the estate"), which is understandably hands-off (for security and privacy reasons, visitors are not allowed to explore the premises on foot by themselves) and carefully run.

A strange combination of public and private exist here, and not always on the best terms. A very small group of students come to live and study under the aging and thunderous shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright, sleeping in small dorm rooms lining the central drawing room and quietly producing derivative architecture for a public receptive too late to a great individual’s work. Much of the complex is in poor repair, and much to the consternation of the preservation committee, students don’t seem much interested in upkeep and maintenance. Lightning recently struck the centuries-old oak tree around which Wright built his beloved home, crashing into the study and necessitating a hardly believable $35.00 fee for a house tour. The house and some areas in the school are laid with electric acid kool-aid blue pile carpet; and students maintain some of Wright’s rather egomaniacal and capricious decisions, such as rearranging the dining room tables nightly.

Taliesin has a tragic history, being the site of multiple murders committed by a disturbed servant who killed Wright’s paramour and her children. Wright re-built the home, and it has since suffered landslides, leaking, foundation damage, fire (twice), endless tours, and most recently, lightning.


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Poised on the hill, Taliesin seems desperately to want to slide into the earth and join its creator in long-deserved peace. Wright was an extraordinary figure, and this site proves how original, complex, and ravenous his vision was. Without a client to temper his will, Wright built a sanctuary in the enclosing hills of Wisconsin that shuts out the rest of the world and is possessed of an energy that is a disquieting cross between the bucolic and the demonic.

That said, Wright’s living room is so beautiful you actually want to cry, and the tour guides are sweet, very well informed, patient individuals who do their best to accommodate hoardes of ill-behaved public into their private working and studying lives. Taliesin translates as "shining brow," and this refers to the hill around which the house was built, in a sort of big, huggy L. Wright simply said, "if you build on top of the hill, you lose the hill."

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Christy Rogers, 1998 (updated 2004)


How to visit

From Chicago, take 90 west out of the city to Rockford, IL; at Rockford, pick up 90 north to Janesville, WI and eventually Madison, WI. As you approach Madison, go west on highway 12/18 around the city until you hit highway 14 west to LaCrosse/Spring Green. Watch for 23. Go south on 23 a few miles, to the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors’ Center (just over the river). Allow four hours drive time from Chicago (45 minutes from Madison).

For ticket or tour information, call +1 608 588 7900. There is a blinding array of tour combinations, times, tour guides, and modes of transportation (some are walking; some by van...) The house tour is a whopping $35 - I prefer to think I attended a fund-raiser, albeit rather scruffily attired. Off-season tours are available but the regular "season" is May 1- October 31.


Books and other web sites

Click the book titles to view and to order direct from

 

048628364x_m.gif (15705 bytes) Understanding Frank Lloyd Wright's Architecture
Donald Hoffmann

A highly readable, generalist account of the influences, development and innovations of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture, well illustrated.

1568980418_m.gif (13070 bytes) Wright Sites : A Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright Public Places
Arlene Sanderson (editor)

A practical visitors' guide to thirty six publicly accessible Frank Lloyd Wright sites, with a straightforward one or two page description of each, with black and white photographs.

 

"Frank Lloyd Wright: Designs for an American Landscape, 1922-1932" is on the Library of Congress web site; it is a beautiful series of five unrealized projects with extraordinary connections to the landscape, executed in beautiful, hypothetical models constructed to Wright’s sketches and photographs.

Taliesin has its own web site at www.taliesinpreservation.org

www.geocities.com/SoHo/1469 provides both its own Frank Lloyd Wright content and a set of links to other Frank Lloyd Wright sites on the web.

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