Frank Lloyd Wright at Home

To feel his legacy, fol­low­ers of the fa­mous ar­chi­tect trek not only to Oak Park in Illi­nois, but also to Wis­con­sin.

Arts and Crafts Homes - - PILGRIMAGE -

WRIGHT’S FA­VORITE CHILD­HOOD haunt was the site of his Un­cle James’s farm near Spring Green, about 40 miles west of Madi­son, Wis­con­sin. Wright’s mother had pur­chased land there in 1904, and Wright thought of the area as his home. He re­turned to Wis­con­sin in 1911 and be­gan de­sign­ing Taliesin, the home and stu­dio he would build and re­build un­til his death in 1959.

Fa­mously marked by fire and tragedy, Taliesin re­mained Wright’s beloved “shin­ing brow” (a trans­la­tion from Welsh of the name). The 37,000-square-foot com­plex in­cluded liv­ing quarters, guest rooms, apart­ments, a draft­ing stu­dio and of­fice, a work­ing farm, or­chards, berry patches, vine­yards, kitchen gar­dens, and a hy­dro­elec­tric plant. It also housed Wright’s cadre of ap­pren­tices, who were largely re­spon­si­ble for con­struc­tion.

To­day the 600-acre es­tate is open to the pub­lic as a house mu­seum. On site is Hill­side, a school de­signed by Wright in 1902, which to­day houses a theater and a huge draft­ing stu­dio. Half­way be­tween the res­i­dence and Hill­side sits a clus­ter of agri­cul­tural build­ings called Mid­way Barns. There is no bet­ter place to see Wright’s ideas at work than in this syl­van set­ting.

The nearby city of Madi­son was Wright’s youth­ful home for 10 years. His par­ents were found­ing mem­bers of the First Uni­tar­ian So­ci­ety of Madi­son. In 1946 the con­gre­ga­tion com­mis­sioned Wright to de­sign a meet­ing house, which was com­pleted in 1951. It was no easy project; Wright’s leg­endary cost over­runs taxed the re­sources of the small con­gre­ga­tion. Parish­ioners, many of them pro­fes­sors at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin, hauled stone and mixed mor­tar to com­plete the build­ing. Its tri­an­gu­lar façade marks it as one of the world’s most in­no­va­tive ex­am­ples of church ar­chi­tec­ture, and it was des­ig­nated a Na­tional His­toric Land­mark in 2004.

Wright first pre­sented his idea for Madi­son’s Monona Ter­race in 1938. A master plan long had called for a se­ries of gov­ern­ment build­ings to con­nect Lake Monona to the Capi­tol, along with a park and ter­races step­ping to the shore. When the Board of Su­per­vi­sors turned down Wright’s plan, the city lost hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in fed­eral fund­ing.

Wright’s re­vised plan was thwarted by World War II. He pre­dicted that his vi­sion would not be re­al­ized in his lifetime, and he was right: “But some­day they will build it,” he’d add. Fi­nally, in 1997, the Monona Ter­race Com­mu­nity

and Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, an adapted ver­sion of Wright’s plan, was com­pleted on the orig­i­nal site. Near Taliesin stands The House

on the Rock, a vast col­lec­tion of rooms built by Alex Jor­dan, a Spring Green lo­cal who fell in love with the dra­matic lo­ca­tion. He be­gan to build atop Deer Shel­ter Rock in 1945, opened the place to the pub­lic in 1960, and didn’t stop adding to it un­til his death in 1989. The ex­tent of the col­lec­tion is beyond de­scrip­tion— carousels, an­tique cars, cir­cus mem­o­ra­bilia, doll­houses. The House on the Rock, jaw-drop­ping as it may be, is light years from the seren­ity and co­her­ence of its neigh­bor. Taliesin is not a col­lec­tion, but Wright’s home.

FROM TOP: Fields sur­round Taliesin, Wright’s home and stu­dio in Wis­con­sin. The gar­den court at Taliesin is an ex­ten­sion of the ar­chi­tec­ture. Hill­side, de­signed by Wright as a school in 1902, is also on the site.

LEFT: Wright’s mo­tifs are ev­i­dent in the Assem­bly Hall at Hill­side. BE­LOW: This was Mrs. Wright’s bed­room at Taliesin. RIGHT: A draft­ing hall and a theater cur­rently oc­cupy Hill­side, a for­mer school. Wright be­gan de­sign­ing Madi­son’s Monona Ter­race in 1938; an adap­ta­tion

of his plan was com­pleted in 1997.

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