Frequently referred to as the father of American modernism through his establishment of the Prairie School of architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright gifted the world with many culturally-significant designs, forever leaving his stamp on American architecture. Many of Wright’s designs are widely celebrated and remain standing today, including Taliesin, one of his most iconic works that altered his life and the lives of those around him while serving as his studio.
The archetype of Prairie School architecture was built in 1911 by Wright after he had left Oak Park, Illinois to return to his family’s land in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Derived from Welsh mythology, Taliesin was an ancient poet, whose name means radiant brow. Wright built the exemplary estate in a Wisconsin River valley into the brow of his favorite hill from boyhood, hence its name.
During the process of designing Taliesin, Wright drew inspiration from the patterns and rhythms of his surroundings. He became inspired by the thought of living among his ancestry and the nature that surrounded him as he embodied the idea of organic architecture within his design. Wright refined visions from his previous Prairie School designs, including a lush courtyard and open floor plan, and used local limestone and sand from the Wisconsin River to invite the outdoors indoors — a radical idea at the time.
Throughout the estate’s history, it suffered a number of accidents, including two fires that sparked Wright to complete two renovations on Taliesin. The first of which, Taliesin II, was completed in 1915 after arson had destroyed one-third of the house, including Wright’s living quarters. The redesign was nearly identical to the architecture in Taliesin I, excluding its new observation deck and, in an attempt to make the estate completely self-sufficient, Wright’s hydroelectric generator.
Following another destructive fire in 1925, Wright was forced once again to pour new life into Taliesin and went to develop the third rendition of the estate, Taliesin III. Through the devastation, Wright remained committed to his passion for thoughtful architecture and brought a breath of fresh air to the bare structure that surrounded him. While living at Taliesin III Wright also designed some of his more renowned work, including Fallingwater, the headquarters for S.C. Johnson and Jacobs I (the Herberg Jacobs House).
Beginning in 1932, Wright established the Taliesin Fellowship and hosted 50 apprentices at Taliesin on an annual basis, giving them the opportunity to work for him for a lengthy period of time and experience his intensive working environment. Today, the estate is in the hands of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the fellowship uses the neighboring Hillside School as its home base. The esteemed property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
Located just a few hours outside of Chicago, the Taliesen estate is the perfect day trip for anyone who appreciates breathtaking architecture and offers visitors a variety of tours designed for every level of interest, which can be booked on their website here.