And just like that, us Rileys are back from the desert. We returned from our week-long Arizona vacation about a week ago, which means we’ve successfully made it through a full week of work. And to commemorate that major accomplishment, we were quick to reward ourselves with a full round of beers.
Although we’re no longer basking in the desert sun, we’re still basking in the thrill of all the amazing sights we saw. Of the trips we’ve taken together, this, by far, was the one that presented the most jaw-dropping photo opportunities. I racked up a good deal of poster-worthy images on my memory card, which I’m excited to share. But first — a few details about the start of our trip.
We flew from St. Louis to Phoenix on a Saturday and endured a multitude of delays, thanks to a massive storm that dumped a foot of snow on the St. Louis area. We were lucky enough to not see a glimpse of it. We were just delayed by it.
We eventually landed in Phoenix late on Saturday night, picked up our rental car and drove to neighboring Scottsdale to meet our friend, Kevin. He was nice enough to provide a roof over our heads for our Scottsdale stay, which our wallets were very thankful for.
Day 1 in Scottsdale was pretty low-key. We had lunch at Yard House before Mikey and Kevin ventured to the baseball stadium for Dodgers and A’s spring training, and I ventured to Fashion Square Mall for spring shopping. A win-win for everyone.
Day 2 in Scottsdale was a Monday. Kevin went to work, and Mikey and I drove to North Scottsdale to tour Taliesin West, a Frank Lloyd Wright home. I was surprised to learn that Wright had a home in Scottsdale, but when I did, Mikey and I jumped at the chance to see it. We were both equally impressed with the tour we took of Wright’s home and studio in Oak Brook, Illinois in 2011.
This tour was just as interesting. After suffering a bad bout of pneumonia one year, Wright’s doctor encouraged him to spend time in a warmer climate. So Wright chose Scottsdale. The home was built in Scottsdale in 1937 — much later in Wright’s career. His home in Oak Brook was built at the beginning of his career when he was still married to his first wife. Taliesin West was built as a winter home for he and his third wife to live.
What’s interesting about Taliesin West is that it was more than just a home. The grounds became an artist community of architects, writers, sculptors and more. Today, the grounds provide food, lodging and classrooms for aspiring architects enrolled in the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Beyond the buildings is an expanse of land intended for the students’ experimental use. In the spirit of learning through doing, they’re allocated $1,000 to build whatever it is they wish.
In addition to the students, you’ll also see artists who have made Taliesin West their permanent home. On our tour, we encountered John Rattenbury, Frank Lloyd Wright’s protege, who resides at Taliesin West. I caught a photo of him in the shadows. No, that’s not creepy at all, is it?
It’s hard to break down everything we digested on the tour. So I’ll spew out a few interesting tidbits.
The buildings were primarily constructed by Wright’s student’s hands. A combination of desert rock and masonry, Wright stayed true to his style of designing structures that did not disrupt their surrounding environment. Taliesin West blends seamlessly into the landscape of sand and rock.
Wright had a flair for Asian art, which is why you’ll see bursts of Asian art pervading the grounds. One of the first pieces we saw is pictured below. It had arrived on a ship from China with its pieces dismantled. To Wright, it sounded like a perfect repair job for his students. This was as close to perfect as his students could get it.
To say that Wright was detail-oriented would be an understatement. If you hired him as your architect, he would have a say in everything down to the napkin rings on your dining room table. Despite the simplicity of everything we saw on the tour, there’s evidence of his detail-oriented nature at every turn.
In comparison to the home and studio tour in Oak Brook, the Taliesin West tour gave us much more insight into just how eccentric Wright was. Granted, it may have just been our tour guide who was so willing to give us the dirt. But we learned Wright was an excessive spender. He believed that his finances would just take care of themselves. Some also shame him for the lack of relationship he had with his children. He had a total of eight, many of which were born during his first marriage. He was married three times, and once he passed, was buried with his mistress. That is, until Olga, his third wife, decided to have his body exhumed, cremated and scattered somewhere on the Taliesin West grounds, where she lived full-time after Wright’s passing. Much of his scandal was written in a book, called Loving Frank, which I fully intend to read now that our tour guide has given a few hints as to what happens in the story. (And by the way, we didn’t get to see his ashes on the tour. They won’t disclose the location.)
It turned out to be another great Frank Lloyd Wright experience for us. If all that info wasn’t memorable enough, I’ll also remember how sunburnt I got on the tour. We ended up spending a good deal of time outdoors, and that harsh Arizona sun is a rude awakening. So know to slather on your sunscreen if you ever go.
Now it’s time to start thinking about the next Frank Lloyd Wright home we want to visit. Falling Water, perhaps?