Those who warned us that the rain wouldn’t last long were correct. This morning, we woke to blue skies and stepping outside was somewhat of a surprise, however much we were expecting the warmth.
We were headed for Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s house and school of architecture, on the outskirts of Scottsdale. We’d driven up here yesterday, having been incorrectly led to believe by our guidebook that it was open. Today, we strolled in around 9.15 am, securing our places with the slightly dippy woman selling tickets. Slightly dippy could be an understatement – not only did she warn us against travelling around England on an American Express tour because of “the terrorists who are waiting to blow it up”, she also claimed to remember Mary from an ice cream parlour at Warwick Castle… We paid our money and having corrected her misconceptions about the threats to tourists in England, moved swiftly on. We still wonder if Mary has an evil twin in Warwick
We joined the obligatory guided tour, fortunate in having Sue as our guide. She set off at a good pace, allowing us time to gather in the scant shade available before going into the house itself.
From the terrace of the house, the view was clear over the desert. Sue explained that the cacti take around 70 years before they grow their first “arm” so some of those in view are hundreds of years old.
We are all very fond of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and admire his attention to detail and the clever way in which he trained his staff. However, we were rather surprised to see the rough finish here at Taliesin West – the whole construction was created from a mix of local stone and a dryish concrete mix. These same, rough walls were the interior surface too but the lines of the structure, the framed views and the overall effect was such that the rough finish seemed perfectly fitting.
The woodwork was roughly finished too, the doors hanging from simple hinges and hung directly on the stone without a frame. Very “spiky” throughout, this was a structure of few right angles and the doors were interesting shapes!
We loved hearing of his skill in designing a building which works perfectly. Here, we sat in the semi-basement theatre and marvelled at the way the shape of the room managed the sound so effectively. What a clever man!
We learned of how the school of architecture works to this day, working through the Winter here at Taliesin West and throughout the summer at Taliesin, in Wisconsin, because this was never intended to be a year-round base for FLW and his team – far too hot!
Craving ice cream, we left in search of a”Cold Stone”, following google directions as far as the HQ building before realising that we were not likely to find and actual ice cream there. We quickly rerouted to a shopping mall where we found what we were looking for!
It was interesting to see the misters along the street of this upscale area, too. Living in this climate must present so many challenges.
Our afternoon destination was the State Capitol – or rather, the grand building which is now a museum, having been replaced by a more modern, functional structure down the street. The copper dome shone in the afternoon sunshine as we ventured inside, adding another capitol building to our collection.
Inside was a series of rooms full of dusty bits and pieces, though a couple of questions were provoked for future research – in particular, we wondered what happened to the California Box Car full of goodies sent by France in 1949, seeing the contents of the Arizona one displayed here. Most of the other displays didn’t detain us long, though I rather liked the US Fleet in a nutshell in the picture above.
Linking nicely with this morning, however, was FLW’s speculative design for a new State Capitol. A room was devoted to a few of his plans and for a scale model of the building – a rather futuristic design drawn from local themes and interpreting the landscape in a somewhat abstract fashion.
The model was detailed and offered a better insight than the drawings, though for me, it’s the artwork which holds the most interest.
Another structure with few, if any, right angles in place, these drawings were done in response to a simple rumour that a replacement capitol was needed. Sadly, the depression and economic hardships of the time meant that it was never really given serious consideration.
Although some of the elevations and impressions look attractive and reveal what was probably a well thought through and workable building
the overall design is somewhat other worldly and it’s hard to imagine it here in the city today.
Time then, to return to Scottsdale, to write up a few journal notes before I forget, to cool off a little and relax before dinner. Our last night here before moving on, we look forward to moving on to Prescott tomorrow.
The heat will continue, I believe.