Another Twist at Taliesin

John Hill
19. March 2020
Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo: Steven C. Price/Wikimedia Commons)

Two weeks after the School of Architecture at Taliesin announced it had secured new fundings sources in an effort to remain open, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation has announced it will end discussions with the school, letting its agreement with the school expire at the end of July.

The Taliesin story starts in 2017, when the school that evolved from Frank Lloyd Wright's apprenticeship program changed from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture to the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SOAT), reflecting the financial independence it needed in order to maintain accreditation as an institute of higher learning. 

Jump forward to January 2020 and the announcement at the end of the month that "the "School of Architecture at Taliesin was not able to reach an agreement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to keep the school open." The Foundation, whose mission is "preserving Taliesin and Taliesin West for future generations," also serves as the landlord for the School, but the news made it appear the Foundation was not interested in the educational legacy Wright started in 1932.

Then in early March, SOAT reversed its decision to close, citing new funding sources but not revealing specifics on them. The lack of details on funding was called out by the Foundation in a letter this week (undated, but apparently March 15, 2020) that states: "the School provided no information about new sources of secured funding or enrollment to the Foundation that would suggest that it had a viable path forward. As a result, the Foundation made the difficult decision to end discussions with the School."

The Foundation's latest statement all but ensures the demise of SOAT — as well as mediation and arbitration, as Archinect reports — but it has its own vague assertions on continuing education at Wright's homes and studios at Taliesin and Taliesin West. The same letter states: 

"We have heard an eagerness from [apprentices and former alumni] to have us return to core elements of Wright’s Fellowship they felt had disappeared, including ideas around apprenticeship and pedagogy centered on the evolution of organic architecture.  We are assembling a working group that will explore how these ideas and others can become the spine of new programs that will continue the legacy of Taliesin, the Fellowship, and organic architecture through the training of design professionals and others in Wright’s ideas."

The Foundation is helmed by Stuart Graff, "a corporate attorney and global business executive working with leading consumer products and technology companies over 30 years," while SOAT's outgoing president is architecture critic, curator, and educator Aaron Bestky, who was recently appointed director of Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design.

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