A few years ago while reading an issue of my beloved AFAR magazine, I ran across a tiny blurp about Taliesin West, a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Scottsdale, Arizona. I tore out that page and kept it on my desk as something to do on a future trip to the Phoenix area.
Given our inclination for sustainability-built homes, I knew that Taliesin West was something Mr. Misadventures and I needed to see. Plus the fact that Frank Lloyd Wright was the creator of organic architecture and one of the heads of the Prairie School of architectural style which integrated buildings within the landscape which definitely appealed to us.
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Opinions are always my own and I’ll never promote something I don’t use or believe in. Also as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nestled in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Taliesin West stands as a testament to the architectural genius of Frank Lloyd Wright. Scottsdale is a short drive from Phoenix and before you know it you are in the hills above the city looking out on a magnificent view of the canyons below and mountains beyond. You can imagine that in 1937 (when FLW purchased the land) it was an empty palette to play with.
Mr. Misadventures and I took the Insights Tour, one of many Taliesin West tours they offer (here is a list with descriptions) at this Frank Lloyd Wright Arizona museum and we thoroughly enjoyed it. As a seasoned tour guide led us through the enchanting interior spaces of this masterpiece, we couldn't help but marvel at the seamless integration of desert masonry and organic design principles.
The guided tours are 90 minutes in length (they also have a 60-minute audio tour) and full of interesting stories and anecdotes about FLW’s life, work, and preservation efforts. We had an amazing docent who was truly passionate about all things FLW.
It's a walking tour (self-guided audio tours are also available in the Frank Lloyd Wright store) with a guide that takes you in and around this national historic landmark. Taliesin West's significance is recognized not only within the United States but also globally, as it holds a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list (1 of 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites for FLW). The visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright himself envisioned this desert laboratory where architecture and nature harmoniously coexist.
The best part?
We could touch and photograph as much as we wanted. (I don’t know if it is an Arizona thing but after both Pima and Taliesin West, I am in love with their approach to museums!). I have been to lots of historic homes and this is the first time I have been able to sit on the furniture, to touch walls, it is fantastic!
The furniture and decorations are a marvel to anyone who appreciates prairie-style architecture.
Frank Lloyd Wright was heavily influenced by the work of Friedrich Fröbel, the creator of kindergarten and educational toys that used “visual materials to reconstruct a successful system to teach young children about art, design, mathematics, and nature.”
Basically, geometric shapes. The favor of local materials was also important. The other influence on FLW was Asian. Both Chinese and Japanese designs, art, and philosophy.
Once we began touring the house and grounds, we were able to see geometric shapes (which after 79 years are still in style) and Asian touches throughout. See if you can spot them in the photos I’ve shared.
Our advance purchase of tickets for the guided tour allowed us to explore the drafting studio, a place where Wright's creative genius took shape. This drafting room, much like his drafting studio in New York City, served as the epicenter of his groundbreaking work.
While wandering through the garden room, we learned about the influence of the natural surroundings on Wright's design philosophy. The desert sand and surrounding landscape were integral to his vision of a desert utopia. Taliesin West's low-slung buildings with canvas roofs blend seamlessly with the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains.
One can't help but be inspired by the serene outdoor pathways of Taliesin West, where Wright's most famous buildings come to life. The winter camp, once nestled in the rural foothills of northeast Scottsdale, now stands as a symbol of Wright's architectural legacy.
What Mr. Misadventures and I loved the most is how much natural light the house had, just gorgeous! Although natural light also means sun, so I am not sure this would be my favorite place to visit in the summer (they do have air conditioning), it is FLW’s winter home for a reason!
[They actually do host evening star-gazing tours in the summer. Learn more about what to do in Phoenix in the summertime here.]
This was Frank Lloyd Wright's office and he could work in it all day without any lights!
The living room also was full of natural light. The chairs were designed by Mr. Wright and are really interesting. They aren't entirely comfortable, they are meant to keep you sitting up and paying attention (to the host no doubt) while they were entertaining!
There are windows that provide a line of sight everywhere.
Inside Taliesin West's dining hall, we marveled at the south-facing dining room that offers breathtaking views of the desert landscape. It's a place where Wright's personal touch can be felt in every detail, from the structure's walls to the inscription of a collection of his own words.
Throughout the tour, we gained insight into the life of this famous architect, including his personal life and influences. Ralph Waldo Emerson's writings and Asian design elements played a significant role in shaping Wright's imagination.
This scene from an ancient Chinese play was purchased in San Francisco's Chinatown. Having not survived the voyage on the boat from China, there were large pieces and FLW was able to buy them very cheaply and had them inserted into the walls of his home.
There are multiple dragons as well, like when we enter the back of the house. Geometrics may not age, but how about that gold and teal!?
And in the back garden.
The home is also a functioning school of architecture (the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture closed in 2020) and we got to peek into one of the apprentice work areas in the hillside home school, part of the legacy of the Taliesin fellowship.
As we explored the architecture school on-site, we met aspiring architecture students carrying forward Wright's legacy with their own architectural education. A small number of the legacy fellows continue to be inspired by the desert landscape and the unique work environment at Taliesin West. It is cool to know that there are continually new generations of architects inspired by their time at Taliesin West.
Here is the courtyard at the backside of the apprentice design area.
I haven’t shared every room that we visited, you definitely need visit Taliesin West for yourself to take it all in. I promise you that you will be inspired to seek out other FLW sites when you are done!
Frank Llyod Wright's Taliesin West is not just a historic site; it's a symbol of Mr. Wright's architectural brilliance and his commitment to integrating his work with the natural environment. Spread across acres of land, this site offers fellowship's hands-on education programs, including special exhibitions such as Ayad Rahmani's latest book on Wright's work.
Taliesin West tickets are available online. Be sure to get an understanding of the rules around photography at the tour ticket office. Taliesin West photos do have a few restrictions. There is an ongoing calendar of cultural events and programs at Taliesin and Taliesin West, so if you are going to be in the Phoenix area, make sure to see what is going on.
Between February and June, they also have a wonderful evening event called Sunset & Sips it is Taliesin West’s most popular program seeing a desert sunset while enjoying a beverage is the perfect way to start the evening.
If you are a fan of FLW, become a member and get updates on the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation‘s preservation efforts and Taliesin preservation.
Taliesin West is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in architecture, design, and the captivating legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. It's a place where the Arizona desert landscape and Wright's personal touch come together to create a brilliant aspect of architectural history.
Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin FAQs
What does Taliesin mean?
Following his family's custom, he gave the site of his mother's summer home a Welsh name. “Taliesin” (pronounced Tally-ESS-in means “shining brow.” There is the original Taliesin in Spring Green Wisconsin and Taliesin West in Scottsdale Arizona. (He came to Taliesin from Chicago to escape controversy from a discovered affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney.)
When was Taliesin West built?
The Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin West site was established in 1937 and took many years to build. It was considered “completed” in 1959.
What is Tan-y-Deri?
Tan-y-Deri is the name of the home that belonged to Frank Lloyd Wright's sister, Jane Porter. It is located on the Taliesin Estate in Wyoming, Wisconsin (near the village of Spring Green).
Who are the Lloyd Jones?
The Lloyd Jones was another Welsh family that was related to the Lloyd Wright family. Their stories were intertwined through the decades. Here is a great article about the 2 families.
Frank Lloyd Wright: Arizona influence
FLW gave the Valley of the Sun its own architectural style which can be found throughout the greater Phoenix area. His adherence to his philosophy of organic architecture blended with its surrounding environment can be seen in all his work. You can visit the Gammage Auditorium on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. Pieper House (1952) is a private home located at 6442 Cheney Dr in Paradise Valley.
See below for sites within the Phoenix city limits.
Frank Lloyd Wright: Phoenix influence
The following FLW sites are within Phoenix's city limits: You can see (from the outside) the home of David Wright (the son of FLW) built in 1952 in Phoenix's Arcadia neighborhood: 52nd Street at Camelback Road. The 77-foot spire on the First Christian Church at 6750 North Seventh Avenue in Phoenix. The Boomer Cottage (1953) is a private home located at 5808 N. 30th Street. The Harold Price, Sr. House (1954) is a private home located at 7211 N Tatum Blvd occasionally open for tours (contact infoATpricehousefoundationDOTorg for more information). Or buy (just kidding) the Norman Lykes House (1959) located at 6836 N 36th Street if you have a spare $8.9 million. Or rent it for a day or 2, as it is actually on VRBO!
How about you? Have you visited a Frank Lloyd Wright site? I bet you have! With over 532 completed projects, it is likely there is one in your own backyard!
More [greater] Phoenix Stories
- Here are 7 things you should always bring on a trip to Phoenix.
- Here are 70 things to do in Phoenix.
- And 60+ Best Day Trips from Phoenix
- Are you visiting in the summertime? Here are things to do in Phoenix in the summer.
- Get your cowboy on! There are rodeos all year round!
- Best tamales in Phoenix, yum!
- Cool down with the best ice cream in Phoenix.
If you want my FULL Phoenix and Tucson Phoenix and Tucson Activity + Day Trip List with day trips and things to do in Phoenix and Tucson, it is available for $4.99.