The Wright Materials: Learning from Taliesin

Wright’s personal life aside, there’s no disputing his mastery of materials.  As a fellow designer and Wisconsinite I can’t help but admire the way he embraced and re-purposed the materials in the landscape around him to create beautiful buildings, Taliesin being only one example.

Rather than rhapsodize about the lovely material usage too much myself, I’ll borrow words from one Henry-Russell Hitchcock in his 1975, The Nature of Materials: The Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright 1887 – 1941.

“Taliesin is not on a hilltop, it is rather wrapped around a hilltop, which rises behind and above the house.  The materials, particularly the local stone laid in loosely projecting layers like natural cliffs, are from the soil, but the house, except for the various solidly anchored chimneys and piers of the stonework, soars and hovers.  There are long bands of plaster, more roughly surfaced than on earlier houses, framed above and below by sturdy moulded wooded strings.  Above this are the bands of windows whose wooden mullions as always indicate the stud-structure of the wall.  Over all are the roofs, the most conspicuous feature of Taliesin.  But the roofs no  longer form a simple geometric cross shape, indeed their very forms are varied, with gable elements and penthouses introduced among the predominant hips.  The roof complex seems like some piece of the landscape, slightly abstracted to flat slanting planes, but flowing together as freely as the space of the rooms below.”

Lets take another little tour after the jump, shall we?

Enameled metal in his signature color of Cherokee Red;

A dynamic interplay of plaster ceiling and wooden accent work;


More stone;

Yet more stone

Custom wooden mullions set in … stone;

Self effacing shingled hipped roofs;

Custom plywood furniture, dynamic but inexpensive to create;

Plywood again, this time with tile (well they can’t all be winners);

And, last, but hardly least, the landscape around the building was always one of Wright’s most powerful materials at Taliesin.  This wasn’t something he got to take advantage of as much in his early years of suburban design in Oak Park or that he paid as much attention to in his later in his Broadacre city but (credit where credit is due) when he had a landscape to work with, he always worked it.

One response to “The Wright Materials: Learning from Taliesin

  1. Alright, I’m beginning to come around. I’m trying to compartmentalize my repugnance for his personal life from the admitted beauty of his buildings.
    I don’t believe for a minute that “greatness” demands walking all over those who love you. That always tarnishes “greatness.” Taking the big picture, amazing work does not condone reprehensible behavior – nor does emotional destructiveness invalidate the lasting accomplishment.

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