Taylor Scott, Managing Editor
The School of Architecture, founded by Frank Lloyd Wright as the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932, was back in Spring Green July 11-17 for a “Summer Design Discovery 2021” immersive design program. The visit comes months after the School dropped ‘Taliesin’ from its name following a split from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, settling into a new home at Cosanti in Paradise Valley, Arizona and Arcosanti, in Mayer, Arizona.
“The School is looking forward to getting back to its midwestern roots this summer, if only for a time, while it continues to look for a new permanent Wisconsin-based location,” shared Academic Coordinator Elaine McEwen, ahead of the visit.
During its week in Spring Green, the School utilized the Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center (6306 State Highway 23, Spring Green) as its studio space, before heading to Crown Hall in Chicago. According to the program’s outline, “the program’s two midwestern base locations exemplify two contrasting urban conditions that students will experience and study.”
“Having The School of Architecture in our historic site was just wonderful. I have been Director here since only last September, and to see students—architecture students specifically—in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed space was perfect,” shared Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center Director Dave Zaleski. “The students and leaders of the program were focused, committed to their program, and unbelievably respectful of the environment in which they were studying. It was a great match for the two of us!”
According to the School, the intensive summer studio investigated iconic architecture in and around Chicago and Wisconsin, with a focus on Frank Lloyd Wright’s seminal mid-western work. The program, titled City Edge, explored notions of collective space in architecture and urban design through the examination of both historic examples and contemporary projects across rural and urban landscapes in the Midwest.
“It’s an immersion program, giving students the complete Wisconsin experience,” says Jay Rath, president of Bring Back Our Students, an organization set out to do just that. “Students have told me again and again that their education is incomplete without walking the same land as Wright, breathing the same air, viewing the same distant ridges.”
Students conducted a series of short design and documentation exercises to analyze significant buildings using themes drawn from Wright’s work, culminating in a short design project related to the upcoming 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial.
During their trip to the area, the School also participated in the official opening and dedication of the Performing Arts Pavilion, located in the downtown Mazomanie Westland Promenade, an outdoor performance structure and bandshell designed by School of Architecture at Taliesin student Frank Corridori for the 2018 Summer Immersion Class based on his design “Dancing Gables”. The design evokes the skyline of Mazomanie.
The dedication featured speaker Tim Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, who told tales of his teenage years living at Taliesin in the summers and working for his grandfather. Many of those in attendance at the dedication audibly lamented over the loss of Taliesin as a base for the School.
“We too would like for Taliesin to be filled with student activity to be a living, learning site and not just a museum. The School of Architecture founded by Frank Lloyd Wright as the Taliesin fellowship in 1932 looks forward to a day when our students can return to their former campuses at Taliesin and Taliesin West,” shared Nicole Hollenbeck, Chief Financial Officer of The School of Architecture.
The School also toured Taliesin during their time in Spring Green and sat down with architect Floyd Hamblen to discuss the history of the Taliesin Fellowship. Hamblen brings experience as a member of the Taliesin Fellowship and as faculty member of the former School of Architecture at Taliesin.
“Our visit to Spring Green has been extremely meaningful, especially in seeing the continued support of the local community that has clearly enabled the school to endure. We are thankful and inspired by this,” shared Stephanie Lin, Dean of The School of Architecture of the visit. “Wright’s Wyoming Valley School was the perfect space to host our students’ temporary studio and collective activities during our stay. We look forward to a continued presence in the Valley.”
As a successful program wraps up, the School is already looking forward to next year.
“As one of the most popular and successful student immersion programs the school has hosted, we look forward to hosting a similar program for many years to come including next year, the school’s 90th anniversary,” shared Hollenbeck.
After visiting sites in Wisconsin such as Taliesin, Wyoming Valley School, Johnson Wax Building, Jacobs Usonian Home, Seth Peterson Cottage, Wingspread, and the Milwaukee Art Museum – Calatrava, students travelled from Spring Green to Chicago, IL on July 1. The students are touring Wright sites there and in Oak Park and will be departing the Midwest on August 8.
Student Will Fagan reflected on his time in Spring Green prior to and during this summer’s program:
“I first came to the Wyoming Valley in the summer of 2015. I was an undergraduate student who’d flown in from Ohio to intern with the preservation department at Taliesin. I came back the next summer, and the summer after that, finally arriving as a graduate student in 2019.”
“Taliesin had drawn me to the Valley, but Spring Green soon had as much an impact on me as the school. I loved shopping at Nina’s, getting coffee and a book at Arcadia, eating pizza at the White Schoolhouse, and making a fool of myself singing karaoke at the Shed. When I left Spring Green in the fall of 2019, I never expected it would be two years before I returned.”
“As I drove out from Madison, I felt apprehensive. …I was worried returning to Spring Green would fill me with melancholy. To my great relief, it was like coming home again. To find so much support from the people of the Valley was so uplifting. Spring Green had not forgotten us.”
“Frank Lloyd Wright came to the Valley to return to his roots. I came to find my roots, and my connection to Spring Green turned out to be just as deep as Taliesin.”
The School offers a professional, project-based Master of Architecture degree, with a focus on organic architecture and is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board and the Higher Learning Commission. More information about the School can be found at: www.theschoolofarchitecture.edu.