Sunday, November 22, 2009

That Wacky Frank Lloyd Wright

I've now been back from my Wisconsin sabbatical for three weeks, and today's post is one that I've been meaning to write for, oh, three-plus weeks.

Less than a half hour from my cabin-with-the-geese was Frank Lloyd Wright's home, office, and school - Taliesin. That's Welsh for "eyebrow" or something, because you see, he built on the "brow" of a hill, not the top of one. Of course, as it expanded, it pretty much spread over the top of the hill.

It's an interesting, crazy-looking place, that's for sure.

I knew little about Frank Lloyd Wright before the trip, which is a little embarrassing when you consider that I'm still paying off my undergraduate degree. Seems like I should have had an opportunity or two to study his importance in the architecture field. Or hell, through my study of drama, it seems I should have known about the grisly mass murder that took place at Taliesin. Alas... that was news to me.

Anyway, Taliesin was Frank's place to experiment. He had no client to satisfy but himself, so he just kept adding to it. Frank wasn't also much of an engineer, so he didn't give much thought to how adding to the place affected such trifling matters as the foundation and support beams. And Taliesin, like many of Frank's homes, communes with nature, and nature, you see, likes to take over.

So Taliesin is falling apart and is sort of a shithole.

Here's a buttress holding up a support wall:

Peeling paint and cracks in the walls are totally common.

I guess one sacrifices a certain amount of practicality for beauty.

Frank Lloyd Wright is like the Manolo Blahnik of architects.

The biggest surprise is that from the outside, it looks like a big house. The inside, however, is nearly claustrophobia-inducing. He created cramped spaces to keep people moving into the areas where he wanted people. Maybe it was that we were a part of a tour group, but the big spaces didn't seem all that big either, actually. Maybe it's that Frank was a wee man.

Visitors aren't allowed to take photos of the inside, so this is all you get. We put booties on our shoes in the foyer, which had a ceiling so low, I could have jumped up and bumped my head. I didn't, though.

Aren't the booties cute?

I realize that it sounds like I'm complaining about the whole Taliesin experience, but the truth is it's a fascinating place and worth checking out, should you ever find yourself in this particular part of rural Wisconsin.

The walkway was built so that Frank's third wife could commune with the birdies.

The grounds are just beautiful, with the rolling hills, and occasional farmed patches.

We really wanted to wander the grounds, but das ist verboten. Our $47 only granted us access to the house itself.

At nearly $50 a ticket, you'd think there'd be plenty of money to do the restoration needed. I think the problem might be that it's an incredibly high-maintenance building, i.e. it's in a state of constant restoration.

A few "senior fellows" still live at Taliesin. These are people who studied with Frank himself and went on to some level of achievement within the community. Definitions for what that means stayed vague. But it's a program that will die out soon. The last of the senior fellows are in their 80s and 90s. We did actually see one them. He was really fucking old. It doesn't actually seem like a good place for an old person to live. The house is drafty as hell, and the uneven terrain would be a bitch to get around, particularly in winter. But hey, I'm not a senior fellow, so what do I know about what they want out of the experience.

All in all, a crazy, fascinating time. My sister actually treated me to the price because I was on an austerity budget while living in the middle of nowhere with no income, and a $47 admission price doesn't quite fit into the category of "austere." So thanks, big sis. It was a grand thing to do with you.

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At 11:37 AM , Blogger Carrie said...

I am, as you know, a genuinely wee person. Taliesin's proportions are wonderfully comforting for people like me and Frank. You get the same feeling in Shinto temples in Japan. They are not built for Gundergiants.

HATE the booties, though. Nobody put baby in the booties.

At 6:21 PM , Anonymous blondandeffective said...

Heh. You said "buttress."


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