Friday, May 15, 2015

T is for Taliesin

I'm not talking about the 6th century poet and singer (and likely model for the D&D class of "bard").  I'm thinking more about the fact that the famous 20th century architect Frank Lloyd Wright was so charmed by fanciful stories of this early creative genius that he named several of his studios and schools after "Taliesin."

Wright himself was also quite the creative genius.  I don't know too much about his life, but I know he put a huge emphasis on cultivating harmony between humans and their environment.  He also thought a lot about educating the next generation of architects and designers.  He wrote quite a few bombastic tracts -- both for the public and for his students -- but the most pithy and manifesto-like seems to be a list of 10 fundamental principles for exceeding in his craft.  There is some variation in lists to be found online, but the following is taken directly from his 1932 autobiography, page 464...


I.  An honest ego in a healthy body -- good correlation
II.  Love of truth and nature
III.  Sincerity and courage
IV.  Ability for action
V.  The esthetic sense
VI.  Apppreciation of work as idea and idea as work
VII.  Fertility of imagination
VIII.  Capacity for faith and rebellion
IX.  Disregard for commonplace (inorganic) elegance
X.  Instinctive cooperation

It's pretty advanced... many of these terms have specialized meanings in architecture, and it probably takes decades to really internalize and understand them.  Over and over he emphasizes "organic" design.  In another teaching document for Taliesin fellows, An Extension of the Work in Architecture at Taliesin to Include Apprentices in Residence, he explains this organic impulse in more detail...
"Constant working contacts with the nature of structure and materials, the ground, and of nature-growth itself are the only reliable texts to be used in this connection. Only as these are the actual forms of daily experience directly related to daily life and work are they the texts we must now use to begin again at the beginning."
...but I must admit to not quite digesting this, either.

Wright was probably the model for Ayn Rand's über-architect Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, but Wright famously distanced himself from the connection, saying "I deny the paternity and refuse to marry the mother."  :-)

I'll just leave you with a sketch of my favorite Wright design, the Ralph Jester House (also called the Arthur and Bruce Brook Pfeiffer House), which sadly was never built...

Head for the roundhouse, Nellie, they can't corner us there!


  1. I've seen two Wright houses. I felt filled with awe at the sight of Falling Water.


    1. Ah, that's still on my bucket list. I've been to the Goog in NYC, but never to any of the houses.