The architecture school that Frank Lloyd Wright started nearly 90 years ago, made famous for its emphasis on practical and immersive architectural experiences, will soon close.
The School of Architecture at Taliesin, which encompasses Wright properties in Wisconsin and Arizona, will shutter in June at the end of the current school semester.
“This is a sad and somber day for our school, our students and staff and the architecture community,” said Dan Schweiker, Chairperson of the Board of Governors for the School of Architecture at Taliesin. “We are saddened we could not reach an agreement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to continue operating the architecture school.
“Our innovative school and its mission were integral to Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for connecting architecture to our natural world. Wright’s legacy was not just building. It was a school to promulgate the lessons for all future generations.
“The closure of the school is very emotional for our students, our faculty and staff and all of us who worked so hard for this one-of-a-kind institution and its important role in Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy. We did everything possible to fight for its survival but due to other forces it was not meant to be,” Schweiker said.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which is a separate entity, said in its own statement that the school did not have a sustainable business model. The boards of both organizations had come up with a proposal to keep the school going through the end of July 2021. The foundation would have donated use of Taliesin and Taliesin West to the school. But the school’s board didn’t unanimously approve the plan.
“We continue to stand ready to assist in making sure that this change occurs in the best interests of the students,” said Stuart Graff, the foundation’s president and CEO.
The School of Architecture at Taliesin has been a pillar both in the architecture world as well as Arizona and Wisconsin where Frank Lloyd Wright and his wife Olgivanna invited architecture students to live and work with them and immerse themselves in “organic architecture.”
Until Wright’s death in 1959 at age 91, Taliesin West in Scottsdale was the famed architect’s winter home and laboratory. The original Taliesin, Wright’s primary home in Spring Green, was named after a 6th-century Welsh bard whose name means “shining brow.” Both retreats were among eight Wright-designed buildings recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites last year.
Mark Stapp, executive director of the Master of Real Estate Development program at Arizona State University and former chairman of the board of Taliesin Architects, called Taliesin one of the original “learning by doing” educational experiences. It taught “a valuable and relevant perspective and belief about how we create not just buildings but places for humanity,” he said.
The school was unique for its small number of students – about 30 – and the immersive nature of the program. Students designed and lived in their own residences at the respective Taliesin campuses in Scottsdale and Spring Green.
More than 1,200 architects have lived, worked and studied at the school since its founding. Alumni went on to work with Wright on projects such as the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and Fallingwater, a home designed by Wright in Pennsylvania that sits partially over a waterfall; the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, and Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin.