Field Trip to Taliesin

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The company that now employs me is a pretty cool place for a number of reasons, but perhaps one of the best things they do is place a big emphasis on the importance of maintaining a proper "work-life balance." They do a great job of recognizing people's hard work and efforts, and are extremely supportive of everything, especially team-building exercises.

So, each department is allowed a budget for team-building activities, and as the "new guy," I was tasked with planning a group outing/event for our department. After floating several ideas out to the group, we decided to tour Taliesin, which is Frank Lloyd Wright's home, studio, and school - it just so happens to be located in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

We selected October 21 as our "outing day," booked tour tickets, made lunch reservations, called "dibs" on some of the company vans, and cleared our calendars. The 21st came, and off we went. We started the day with some donuts, bagels, coffee, juice, and milk at the office, then hit the road.

The weather wasn't too cooperative at first; it was warm (mid-50s) but rainy... and we were all a bit scared by the general condition of one of our vans - it looked a bit "urban" to say the least.

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That's Phil in the front seat; he's inspecting some of the van's safety equipment. I'm not sure if he did that because I was driving or if because the van didn't do much to bolster our confidence?

The drive to Spring Green is relatively short - it took about 40 minutes to travel there, and thanks to the fall foliage, the scenery was absolutely beautiful. I forgot how lovely it is when the trees are changing color. Here we are at the entry gate to the Taliesin visitor center.

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Taliesin is pronounced "Tahl-EE-ess-in" and it's Dutch for "Shiny Brow." Mr. Wright's parents were Welsh, and he apparently knew a few words here and there, so he selected Taliesin as the name for the 600 acres on which he built several homes (for himself, his parents, and a few of his aunts), his studio, a farm, and eventually a design school.

Contrary to popular belief, he did NOT build "The House on the Rock." That structure, while located within close proximity to Taliesin, was actually built by Andrew Jordan, Jr, and is an interesting story by itself... You can read more about the story over at Wikipedia.

We spent some time in the gift shop, then headed over to the school. The tour folks don't allow anyone to take photos of the inside of the facilities (probably because the place is quite rundown and in dire need of restoration), so the photos that I took are all from the outside.

Here's the school facility, as seen from our tour bus:

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The school features a large social/gathering room with an upstairs study/library, a theater, a dining hall, a design/learning studio, presentation rooms, and dorm rooms. Believe it or not, the school is still in operation today... I say that, only because none of the buildings are heated, and none of the buildings have doorways with any type of threshold.

FLW was big on incorporating nature and surroundings with his work, so he did things like source all of his building materials from local resources (local to the property), and to really focus on making the structure be "one" with the landscape - his buildings followed the landlines; he didn't clear a site and build on "flat" land. He also liked to carry outside elements to the inside, and that's why there aren't any thresholds on his doorways - he felt a threshold created a dividing line... so, as such, there are gaps of an inch or more under every door. He also liked to use unrefined rock as flooring, on both the outside and inside - hence, no "sealing" under doorways.

Here we are, about to enter the school's entertainment hall:

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The students were all in Arizona, which is where "Taliesin West" is located; it's a satellite school where the students study during the winter months. The interesting thing about this school is that it's more of a "community" - the students are required to contribute efforts as laborers for the community by assisting with farming duties, cooking, cleaning, and caring for alumni members who come to visit or may still reside at Taliesin. Interesting concept, to say the least.

The students also help with designing commissioned projects, which turns out to be a good thing. FLW, while a talented designer, placed a preference on "form" over "function." As such, many of his structures haven't aged real well; although many have. It seemed to be hit-or-miss... this particular building appears to have held up well - check out the date on the cornerstone:

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From the school, we headed over to his residence, which incorporated his living quarters, his primary design studio, his entertainment areas, and a farm - all in one building. The building survived (well, portions of it did) three fires; that's another interesting story to say the least... it's massive and very cool, but alas, very rundown.

Here's part of it, as seen from our bus:

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And here's the parking area - the architecture is so cool:

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We spent a good hour and a half inside of his home, and then wound-up in the backyard, where we were allowed to take a few pictures. This is a photo taken from the mezzanine of FLW's bedroom:

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Pretty spectacular, eh? FLW was big on having "uninterrupted views" of the surrounding nature - he didn't want to look out from any window and see another structure. I'd say "mission accomplished" in this case.

Here's a view of part of the house and the back courtyard:

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And one more:

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The tour came to an end, and we made our way over to The Old Feed Mill in Mazomaine, where we enjoyed a nice group lunch. After lunch we drove back to Madison and called it a day.

For those that may be interested in learning more about Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin, check out the Taliesin Preservation website, and if you have a chance, take a tour. It's really quite interesting stuff.

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