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Finding Frank Lloyd Wright’s Legacy in Arizona

Posted on May 08, 2010

Known as the greatest American architect of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than one thousand projects, more than 500 of which were completed. More than an architect, Frank Lloyd Wright was a writer, inventor, interior designer, and educator. He wrote 20 books and innumerable articles. He was also a popular lecturer in the US and in Europe. His life was interspersed with controversies and tragedies, but he lived to the ripe old age of 92 well-decorated, awarded and celebrated.

Frank Lloyd Wright pioneered many of the contemporary architecture movements. He exercised organic architecture, a famous example of which is Fallingwater, a Pennsylvania home partly built over a waterfall. He also led the Prairie School movement of architecture, essentially originating the concept of the “open plan” in interior design. Fine examples of a prairie house are the Robie House and Westcott House. Wright also invented the idea of Usonian Houses, USonian being a term coined by the architect himself as a replacement for “American”, to generally cater to the middle-class. His work as an interior designer manifests his masterful manipulation of interior space.

Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright

One of the most famous places associated with Frank Lloyd Wright is a sprawling Sonoran Desert property called Taliesin West, not to be confused with the first Taliesin located in Wisconsin. It exemplifies the harmonious fusion of form and color, grace and beauty, as well as science and nature. Taliesin West, situated in Scottsdale, Arizona, is famous for being Wright’s winter home and the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The great architect’s archives are kept there and it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1982.

Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright

There was something about Arizona that appealed to Wright. It truly became his home and, incidentally, also his place of death. During all the time that he spent there, Frank Lloyd Wright naturally worked on projects in the area. He designed numerous homes and buildings, but most of them were never completed. Notwithstanding that, Arizona still carries a wealth of Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy. If you were to go on a tour of this legacy, the following are some of the best places other than Taliesin West to visit:

  • Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium. Originally to be an opera house in the middle of the Tigris River for the King of Iraq, the plan failed to go into fruition when the king was deposed. It finally found a new home in Arizona and was erected on the state university in 1964.
Gammage Auditorium
  • First Christian Church. This is another design that didn’t push through during Wright’s lifetime. Initially intended for the Southwest Christian Seminary, this later became the First Christian Church in 1973.
  • Norman Lykes House. This design is credited as the last one Frank Lloyd Wright made before his death. Its construction was completed in 1967.
Norman Lykes House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Other places of note are the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Raymond Carleson House, Harold Price House, Arthur Pieper House, etc. There is actually some dispute over the true design of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, but it still numbers as one of the recommended stops in a Frank Lloyd Wright-oriented tour.

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