In order to preserve the legacy and rich history of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation has been continuing its work to reinterpret and restore these spaces while maintaining the overall essence of both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Now underway, a press release stated, the latest phase of restoration projects at Taliesin West include redesigning a new water and sewer infrastructure for the property, replacing the canvas roofs over the main buildings and completing ADA-compliant accessibility upgrades. At Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, the Foundation is working with University of Pennsylvania graduate students to better understand the environment’s impact on the Midway Barn’s condition over time.
At Taliesin West, the existing water and sewer infrastructure constructed by Wright’s apprentices starting in 1939 is beyond its lifespan and experiences leaks and blockages that disrupt the day-to-day operations at the property. The plans for the new infrastructure have been designed over the past six months, with construction estimated to begin in spring 2023 and last for approximately one year.
The canvas roofs over the main buildings are being redesigned with new panels that will match the quality of light and color of the original canvas material, first installed in 1939, with contemporary fabrics that can withstand the harsh desert climate. In preparation, the foundation’s preservation team has been monitoring the interior environment in Wright’s office since October 2021 to track temperature, humidity, rain and other natural elements to better understand their effect on the building.
Once a year’s worth of data has been compiled, the team will create a computer-generated model with the proposed panel design to test different materials, such as polytetrafluoroethylene coated fiberglass fabrics and aerogel insulation, to measure durability and impact on the interior environment. The preservation team will first test the new system on Wright’s office for a few years before introducing the technology on other structures at Taliesin West.
ADA-compliant accessibility upgrades have been a major component of this ongoing preservation plan at Taliesin West, with this latest phase putting accessible restrooms in place on each level of the terraced site.
At Taliesin, the foundation’s partnership with the graduate program in historic preservation at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design has focused on the impact and evolution of the Midway Barn. The students have been documenting existing conditions within the structure and creating 3D models of the building, as well as working to gain a better understanding of how the spaces within the Midway Barn were used in the past and how those spaces can be utilized today.
“When we preserve Taliesin and Taliesin West, we are also preserving a part of American history,” vice president of preservation at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Fred Prozzillo, said in the release. “Wright changed the way that we build and live today, not just in the United States but across the world. By utilizing modern materials and improving accessibility, without detracting from the original design of the buildings, we ensure that future generations will be able to experience these spaces as Wright had envisioned them. Through these ongoing preservation efforts, his legacy can continue to influence all those who visit — enabling them to learn from his principles and improve the way that they build their own lives.”
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s 2015 Taliesin West Preservation Master Plan established a number of priority restoration projects throughout the more than 500-acre property. With the goal of completing all the projects identified in the comprehensive plan within 10 years, the foundation has accomplished approximately 90% of it to date.
Financial support and donations are critical for completing important preservation work at Taliesin and Taliesin West. A capital campaign is currently underway to raise the much-needed funds to undertake these ambitious preservation initiatives. To donate or to become a member, visit FrankLloydWright.org.