05 August 2006

Touring Taliesin West

I've been living in Phoenix for over two years but hadn't made the pilgrimage out to Taliesin West until today. Chalk one more thing up to my inherent laziness. Anyway, I finally went this afternoon - wife and inlaws in tow - and was, of course, blown away.

It's the little things about Wright's work that have always impressed me. Sure, there's the overall majesty and grandeur, but to me, that's a function of the sum of all those small decisions and details. His architecture (and graphic design, for that matter) was always quite situational, informed by locale and environment, but in Taliesin West I can see the roots of the more organic work that dominated the final stage of his career.

The small details - repeating patterns of triangles; the interlocking lines of the logo, adapted from a petroglyph found on the site; the dental trim used throughout - echo each other. The buildings almost appear to have grown out of the desert, like fractals in concrete and steel. The rocks from the site embedded in the home-brewed cement of the walls reinforce that impression, as do the gently sloped canvas roofs of the low-slung buildings. Constant iterations, improvements, and additions through the years allowed Wright and his students to experiment with ideas and materials while growing the site bit by bit.

The motif of shapes within shapes reached its pinnacle with the Guggenheim, a concrete shell rising from 5th ave. The nautilus shell is one of the most obviously recursive forms in nature and Wright's ultimate masterwork. The experiments in the desert, informed by a lifetime of playful study, show Wright's understanding of nature's processes. The recursive patterns show him to be decades ahead of his contemporaries.

As for the photo, that's a piece called "Coming Into the Present" by Heloise Crista, found in the sculpture garden outside the Pavilion Theater on site. Honestly, the piece reminded me of The Flash, so I had to take the pic! All of her work has a wonderful sense of life and movement, organic in its own way. It fits and complements the site.


Anonymous said...

Some Wright quotes:
I installed a skylight in my apartment.... The people who live above me are furious!

I bought some used paint. It was in the shape of a house.

In my house, on the ceilings I have paintings of the rooms above...so I never have to go upstairs.

You know how it is when you're walking up the stairs, and you get to the top, and you think there's one more step? I'm like that all the time.

Anonymous said...

Oh and...
My house is made out of balsa wood. When no one is home across the street, except the little kids, I out and lift my house up over my head. I tell them to stay out of my yard or I'll throw it at them.