Filed Under Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright in the Valley

A Lasting Influence on Arizona Architecture and Design

Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic Taliesin West, nestled in the McDowell Mountains is a monument to the architect's philosophy of organic architecture.

Scotty's Blacksmith Shop, established in the late 1920s by E. G. Scott, once stood on the land now occupied by the Sugar Bowl. It was here that the gate to Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic winter home and school, Taliesin West, was forged. As the story goes, Wright swept into the shop trailed by a group of adoring protégées and enumerated at great length, and much to Scott's chagrin, the exacting specifications for his project. This small anecdote speaks to a deeper connection between the Valley and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wright first arrived here in 1927 to assist on a project in Chandler that never came to fruition. He returned in 1929 to help Charles MacArthur design the Arizona Biltmore. Still, Taliesin West, nestled in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, best exemplifies Wright's relationship with the Valley--a relationship in which the Valley's natural landscape functioned as his muse. In 1937, after purchasing the land on which Taliesin West Sits, Wright exuberantly deemed it to be "the top of the world." His keen appreciation of the beauty of the Arizona landscape provided a framework for his architectural endeavors here.

Taliesin West, in particular, is a monument to Wright's signature philosophy of organic architecture—architecture that does not sit conspicuously, obtusely, on the landscape but becomes a part of the landscape, works in harmony with its surroundings and nourishes the lives of its inhabitants. It symbolizes Wright's belief in the beauty of Arizona: "Arizona needs its own architecture . . . Surface patterned after such abstraction in line and color as find' realism' in the patterns of the rattlesnake, the Gila monster, the chameleon, and the saguaro, cholla or staghorn--or is it the other way around--are inspiration enough." Wright sought to be eminently respectful to the desert environment and natural land features as he judiciously managed Taliesin West's forms, materials, palette, and use of light. In this way, he attempted to develop a uniquely Arizonan architecture. In developing this architectural vocabulary, Wright left his greatest mark on the Valley. Today, numerous buildings, both those designed by him and those created by his admirers, mutely testify to his aesthetic influence and the inspiration that the built environment can derive from the natural landscape.


Audio

That Wright Man A long-time Scottsdale resident recounts the beginning of the friendly working relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and E. G. "Scotty" Scott, the owner of Scotty's Blacksmith Shop. Based on a story told by Bill Kimsey in Recollections of Early Scottsdale: "The Way it Was" (Scottsdale: Bill Kimsey, 1987). Written by Amy T. Long; narrated by Jim Newcomer. Recorded at Scottsdale Channel 11; courtesy of the Papago Salado Association.

Images

Frank Lloyd Wright, ca. 1956
Frank Lloyd Wright, ca. 1956 Frank Lloyd Wright was a notoriously forceful personality with exceedingly high standards, a fact that is unsurprising in light of his success. His apprentices anxiously sought to live up to these standards and followed him around constantly in hopes of absorbing his genius. In his autobiography, Wright listed the traits he expected his apprentices to have, including a "capacity for faith and rebellion" and a "disregard for commonplace (inorganic) elegance." Image courtesy of Library of Congress. Source: Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96514801/ Creator: Al Ravenna Date: 1956
Scotty's Blacksmith Shop, c. 1940s
Scotty's Blacksmith Shop, c. 1940s Scotty's Blacksmith Shop's owner and namesake, Elliott G. Scott (left) established his shop on the land where the Sugar Bowl stands today. Scotty easily befriended Frank Lloyd Wright when Wright commissioned him to forge the gate for Taliesin West, Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society, Scottsdale Public Library. Source: Scottsdale Historical Society, Scottsdale Public Library Date: 1940
Taliesin West
Taliesin West Taliesin West functioned as both Wright's personal winter home and the winter home of his architectural school until his death in 1959. Today Taliesin West continues as the winter home of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture (which is housed at Taliesin in Wisconsin during the rest of the year) and serves as the base for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Image courtesy of Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic Source: I, Gobeirne. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TaliesinWest03_gobeirne.jpg Creator: Greg O'Beirne Date: 18 February 2008
Drafting Room at Taliesin West
Drafting Room at Taliesin West The drafting room at Taliesin West, designed to make ample use of natural light, provided an environment for Frank Lloyd Wright's students to work while keeping in touch with their natural surroundings. Many of Wright's most renowned building were drafted here as well, including Grady Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University. Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society, Scottsdale Public Library. Source: Scottsdale Historical Society, Scottsdale Public Library
"Usonian" Exhibit
"Usonian" Exhibit From December 1990 through March 1991 the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall was home to a traveling exhibit of a full-size 1,800 square-foot replica of a Frank Lloyd Wright “Usonian” house. Wright coined the term Usonian for a series of small, cost-effective houses he designed to make his architecture accessible to the masses. The interlocking-pieces that characterized the design of the houses negated the need for skilled craftsman during construction, thereby keeping the costs low. Image courtesy of Scottsdale Public Library. Source: Scottsdale Public Library

Location

12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259

Metadata

Amy Long, “Frank Lloyd Wright in the Valley,” Salt River Stories, accessed March 3, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/19.