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Taliesin - 1915, 1945, 1959
WI Highway 23, Taliesin, Wisconsin

Wright built Taliesin around a hill on land his ancestors settled in rural Wisconsin. Wright made a point of the fact that the building is built into the hill instead of on top of it, so the building became part of the hill. Taliesin operated as his home and studio for the majority of his career but it was also a great proving ground for his ideas.

The sprawling complex, inspired by Italian Villas, encompasses the Wright residence, his studio and drafting room, numerous additional residences guests and staff, a long wing of garages and carports and even animal shelters, which have now been adapted. It is far more expansive than I had imagined, and gives an idea of the size of Wright’s practice.

Taliesin encountered fire on two separate occasions. The first was caused by a servant who set fire to the living quarters and used an axe to murder seven people including Wright’s partner, Martha Brothwick, her two children and a number of Wright’s associates. The second fire was probably caused by an electrical storm. On both occasions, Wright rebuilt Taliesin with the labour supplied by his apprentices. Each incarnation of Taliesin was a new design, and allowed Wright to test his new ideas.

Additions to the building also allowed Wright to experiment and prove his genius. Wright built a small addition to his own living quarters, complete with mitred frameless glass that coincided with a visit by Solomon Guggenheim.

The continual rebuilding and modifying of Taliesin makes the overall appearance of the building (particularly from the central courtyard) to be a complex arrangement of sandstone, stucco, glass and roofs, all colliding and sliding past one another. Despite its continual modification, it manages to retain a sense of unity through the preservation of roof material and pitches, and the use of a restrained pallet of materials that includes the sandstone native to the area, wood and raw stained plaster that has been mixed with river sand to provide a natural texture.

As one would expect, the interior spaces are beautifully composed. The lounge room, where Wright and his apprentices would gather for weekly dinners and piano recitals, is a wonderful and peaceful space. It is surrounded by windows that overlook the valley and the artificial lake built below. The office and drafting room where Wright met his clients is surprisingly insular, but it adorned with ample glazing high overhead that allows light to pour into the space. Taliesin is truly an architectural masterpiece, which allows a window into the workings of the great mind that dreamt up a native and an organic architecture.

Copyright 2013.        Andrew T Boyne Architect.        A: 69 Stanley St Nedlands 6009 Western Australia        P: 0423601604         E: