June 2017 marked the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth, commemorating an important marker of what was to ensue in architectural history.
The famous 20th-century architect designed more than 1,100 works, with 532 of his structures realized during his 70-year career. In his unorthodox and contemporary architectural style, Wright designed churches, museums, schools, offices and skyscrapers. He is known for his functionality and design integrity, harmoniously blending the natural surroundings into his Usonian and Prairie Style works.
To honor Wright’s birth, we take a look at a handful of his architectural sites around the Valley.
Tucked in the desert of North Scottsdale, Taliesin West became Frank Lloyd’s Wright winter home. The historic landmark, established in 1937, remains one of Wright’s most prominent undertakings.
“Frank Lloyd Wright began construction of Taliesin West, his winter home and desert laboratory, in 1938," said Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. "Handcrafted and maintained by Wright and his apprentices over the years, it is among the most personal of Wright’s creations. It embodies many of his design ideas and principles, continuing the legacy of sustainable living that still influences how we build and live today.”
Taliesin West continues to function as an educational home for today’s architects of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture (the program’s other location is at Taliesin in Wisconsin). And it remains to be a site of visitors’ admiration, as the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation conducts tours and offers insights into the life, works and teachings of the architect. Year-round tours include the 1.5-hour insights tour through the garden room, drafting studio, music pavilion and cabaret; the three-hour behind-the-scenes tour with additional peeks inside the Taliesin West dining room and of an exclusive desert site; and the two-hour night lights tour (reservations recommended).
Frank Lloyd Wright Spire
On the corner of Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Scottsdale Road, visitors of the Scottsdale Promenade shopping, dining and entertainment district admire a piece of the architect’s work—the Frank Lloyd Wright Spire. The blue-and-green, internally illuminated spire was originally designed for the Arizona State Capitol in 1957. Erected in 2004, the 75,000-pound structure glows blue each evening for the center’s visitors and those traveling past.
Gammage Auditorium, located on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, is one of the last publicly commissioned projects of Frank Lloyd Wright. The auditorium is loosely based on a design Wright had planned for an opera house in Baghdad. Since its opening in 1964, Gammage Auditorium shows a variety of performing arts in an artistically designed space with a seating capacity of 3,000. Tours of the auditorium are available.
First Christian Church
The designs for First Christian Church in Phoenix were originally planned for the Southwest Christian Seminary, which Wright was commissioned for in 1949. After plans to build the seminary were scrapped, Wright’s widow granted permission for his designs to be used for First Christian Church. Built in 1971, the triangular church spire reaches 77 feet high and native stones are blended into the walls of the church.
In Central Phoenix, the Arizona Biltmore opened to its first guests in 1929. Frank Lloyd Wright acted as the consulting architect in the design of the resort, partnering and collaborating with his former student, Albert Chase McArthur. “Biltmore Blocks,” made of desert sand and pre-cast in 34 different geometric patterns inspired by the trunk of a palm tree, were used to build the resort. A 1.5-hour history tour is available three times weekly.