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Book Cover to Mission 66 Visitor Centers. With image of Dinosaur NM Visitor Center, view from beneath ramp


Table of Contentss




Wright Brothers


Pertified Forest

Rocky Mountain

Cecil Doty



Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Mission 66 Visitor Centers
Chapter 5
National Park Service Arrowhead

Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin Associated Architects, Ltd.

When Secretary of the Interior Udall called on Taliesin Associated Architects in 1964, the firm's founder, Frank Lloyd Wright, had been dead for five years. The most influential American architect of the 20th century, Wright left behind an architectural legacy unsurpassed in its range and influence—from homes on the prairie to urban office buildings, Southern California residences to New York's Guggenheim Museum. Wright inspired generations of modern architects to design buildings sensitive to site, climate, and regional associations. He taught countless young designers by example, through his built work, but also at the Taliesin Fellowship, the architecture school he founded in 1932. During his career, Wright incorporated history, art, poetry, music, and whimsy into designs for about a thousand buildings. Perhaps more effectively than any architect in the world, he achieved the delicate balance between contemporary innovations and centuries of tradition.

Wright built the house he called Taliesin in 1911 on family property in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Taliesin means "shining brow" in Welsh and refers to the siting of the building on the brow of a hill. For Wright, whose mother was Welsh, the name also invoked Taliesin, the legendary bard of Welsh folklore. Taliesin stood on the brow of a hill near the Hillside Home School, an institution Wright had designed for two aunts nearly ten years before. Early life in the house was a series of tragedies: two fires, the murder of Wright's mistress, and an unhappy second marriage that almost cost him the homestead. Finally, in 1928, Wright brought his third wife, daughter and step-daughter to live at Taliesin. As the country entered the Depression, Frank and Olgivanna Wright found themselves with "everything but money," and turned to the employment that had sustained the two spinster aunts. The school they established, the Taliesin Fellowship, occupied the remodeled quarters of the Hillside Home School and adopted the aunts' radical educational philosophy of learning through hands-on experience. Among the applicants for enrollment when the school first opened in 1932 was William Wesley Peters, who would go on to marry Wright's adopted daughter and become the principal of Taliesin Associated Architects. As Peters and his fellow apprentices soon learned, membership in the fellowship involved more than mastering lessons at the drafting table. Apprentices were expected to perform manual labor around the farm, prepare meals, and engage in other tasks necessary for the maintenance of the school. They also participated in social events, such as a daily tea and periodic celebrations requiring exotic costumes and often exhausting preparations.

The fellowship life of daily chores, architectural instruction, and social events was broadened in 1937-38, when Wright began planning a branch of his school in Arizona. Taliesin West was inspired by a temporary desert camp called Ocatilla that Wright had designed in 1929 while working on a project for a resort in Chandler, Arizona. Once the complex was under construction in 1938, the fellowship migrated between the two locations, living in lush Midwestern farmland during the hot summer months and in the temperate desert through the winter. This seasonal routine of dramatic environmental contrasts suited Wright personally. He expressed this satisfaction in the architecture of the schools, both of which were constantly altered and remodeled as inspiration and reason demanded. [19] The intense life of the fellowship, with it hands-on training and rigorous social obligations, imbued devoted students with the design philosophy, if not ability, of their mentor. The Taliesin apprentices who worked on the Rocky Mountains Headquarters not only learned from Wright's method, but also from their experience at his desert retreat, Taliesin West.

Wright established the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in 1940 to guarantee that his "intellectual property" would remain within the fellowship. Upon his death in 1959, this governing body became responsible for the future organization of the school. The core of loyal apprentices, or senior fellows, who decided to carry on Wright's work, were organized as Taliesin Associated Architects. Although maintaining the Taliesin farm proved to be more then it could handle, the architectural firm remained committed to the "learning by doing" philosophy so important to Frank Lloyd Wright. The Foundation established standards for a new school, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and received its professional accreditation in 1996. Wright's belief in the apprenticeship system was carried on through a close relationship between the architectural firm and the school, which share a single drafting room and a dedication to Wrightian design principles. [20] Students work for the firm as part of their learning experience. The school continues the traditional annual migration between Scottsdale and Spring Green. In 2000, Taliesin Associated Architects maintains these two offices, as well as offices in Madison, Wisconsin, Bradenton, Florida, and Hermitage, Tennessee. Eight of the fourteen principles remember life under Wright, and most were exposed to the philosophy of his chief apprentice, William Wesley Peters. [21]

Taliesin West
Figure 54. Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona, 1998.
(Photo by author.)

After the loss of their mentor, the senior fellows looked to Wes Peters for leadership. As managing principal of Taliesin Associated Architects, Peters was responsible for overseeing all projects and, at Wright's death, that meant completing unfinished work. Project architect Tom Casey recalls counting eighty-five ongoing projects, including the Guggenheim Museum, Beth Shalom Synagogue, and Marin County Center. Wright's continuing legacy is perhaps best illustrated by Monona Terrace, a lakeside convention building and community center on axis with the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. The commission came to Wright's drawing board in 1938, and, with the help of the apprentices, he revised the complex several times over the next thirty years; the convention building was finally completed by Taliesin Associated Architects in 1997. By the early sixties, the architectural firm was not only continuing work begun during Wright's lifetime, but taking on new commissions as well. [22]

Taliesin Associated Architects received the headquarters building contract July 1, 1964, just a few weeks after the preliminary site visit. Over the next few months, Peters and Casey met with park architects and planners to discuss the project. At a meeting on September 24 WODC Chief Sanford Hill, John Cabot, chief architect of the Washington office, and architect Jerry Riddell discussed the proposed building with Taliesin and agreed on a schedule for completing the plans. The park staff was already reviewing "revisions of the floor plan requirements for the new Headquarters Administration Building," and by the next month they were examining preliminary drawings and submitting comments to the regional director. In-house architects were involved in floor plan revisions.

When local papers learned that Taliesin Associated Architects would be designing the new headquarters, stories began to appear about Frank Lloyd Wright's previous commission for a hotel in the park. According to the Estes Park Trail and the Rocky Mountain News, Wright designed the Horseshoe Inn for W. H. Ashton, who operated the hotel until 1915. [23] The Park Service purchased the building from new owners in 1932 specifically to destroy it. Reporters couldn't resist mentioning the demolished Horseshoe Inn as a precedent Frank Lloyd Wright building. In fact, Wright's design for an expensive luxury hotel with room for a hundred guests is a formal complex of buildings that bears little resemblance to the two-story wood frame structure actually constructed. The front page of the 1908 Estes Park Mountaineer featured the design by "Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect of Chicago." The building's Wrightian characteristics are apparent in the accompanying description:

The scheme of the building is a large dining room and living room, separated only by a wide chimney with a large fireplace on both sides. Around the two rooms will be a balcony looking down into these rooms. From these two rooms, which form the central part of the building, wings will run both ways, ending in towers two stories high. The guest rooms will be in the wings, and all will have large windows commanding a view of the mountains. One of the wings will span a little stream, and the music of the waters splashing over the rocks beneath the window, ought to lull to rest the tired tourist after a day of mountain climbing. The ground between the main building and towers at the end of the wings will be made into an open court, and in pleasant weather will be used as an outdoor dining room. [24]

The emphasis on a central hearth, the split level arrangement, and segregation of community spaces and guest rooms in this proposed design are typical of Wright's work. Throughout his career, Wright used ceiling heights to distinguish between intimate spaces and expansive, double-height gathering places, such as theaters or living rooms. Open courts become outdoor rooms, and indoors appears to flow outside. If only in project form, the Horseshoe Inn suggests Wright was thinking about natural water features entering the building site as early as 1908. [25] Unfortunately, the hotel known as Horseshoe Inn, as built, had nothing to do with Wright's design.

CONTINUED continued



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