ILX Drive: “Taliesin West” in Scottsdale, Arizona
Odometer (Legend): 528,000
Odometer (ILX): 60,266
Trip Distance: 30 Miles
Only a 30-mile trip this weekend? Yes, indeed.
Wet weekend weather (rare for us Arizonans) kept me from traveling too far from home, but it was a nice break from all the action this past couple of weeks including the trip to the Los Angeles Auto Show. I’ve been greatly enjoying my Acura ILX 6-speed. The ILX was just featured in a Road & Track write-up about the “three pedal club”, since the 2.4-liter model comes only as a stick shift. Check out that article here.
It has been said that Frank Lloyd Wright was once asked to introduce himself under oath in a courtroom. “I’m Frank Lloyd Wright,” he said, “the greatest architect in the world.” Humble he was not, but FLW was indeed one of the most influential architects in history. Over the course of his lifetime from 1867 to 1959, he designed over 1,000 structures. Three friends and I hopped in the ILX on Sunday to visit one of them: Taliesin West.
Josh, Paul, Tyler and I visited Wright’s winter home, in Scottsdale Arizona. Frank Lloyd Wright had been born and raised in Wisconsin. In the early 1900’s, he built a studio and home on a 600-acre estate near the town of Spring Green which became known as Taliesin. In his later years, Wright desired (like so many others do!) to spend the cooler months in Arizona. Taliesin West was built in 1937 and became his home as well as a studio for aspiring architects.
One little known fact about FLW was that he loved cars as much as he loved architecture. Our tour guide told us that Wright owned between 80 and 90 vehicles during his lifetime. And these weren’t plebeian Ford or Dodge models; Wright was driving Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Cord L-29s. Wright saw “automobility” as contributing to individual liberty and key to eliminating rural isolation. One of Wright’s early apprentices, John deKoven Hill, stated:
“The car was part of his stance, his outward appearance as far as the world was concerned. It was a matter of his persona – how he looked, what he stood for – his artistic judgment. The cars he drove and the way he dressed were all part of a general picture of presenting himself and his work in the right light.”
Imagine that – cars being used as status symbols. Apparently that’s been going on for over a hundred years. It’s no wonder that luxury automakers like Acura have a loyal customer base of people who are willing to pay a premium for that level of status. Wright’s Cord L-29 (pictured below) cost more than $3,000, six times the price of a Ford at the time. It was the first American production car equipped with front-wheel-drive. Wright loved his car so much that he wrote a letter of praise to the company president that was later featured in a “What Owners Say” promotion by Cord.
Wright’s other pride and joy was a 1940 Lincoln Continental. He customized it by removing the roof over the front seats and cutting half-round “opera” windows in the back. He had it (and many of his other cars) painted his favorite color as seen here: Cherokee Red.
Below is a scan I took from the Winter 2010 quarterly Frank Lloyd Wright Magazine. Notice what it says about the 1940 Continental in there: This car had logged over 200,000 miles by the time Wright passed away in 1959. I knew I liked this guy for a reason! That 1940 Lincoln Continental, and a similar 1941 model that Wright also owned, are both now restored and owned by film producer Joel Silver.
Come along with me on the below photo gallery of Wright’s 600-acre Taliesin West estate and I’ll recount a few of the interesting facts that were shared with us during our 90-minute tour.
Recent rains have taken their toll on the property. “If it doesn’t leak like a sieve,” our guide told us, “it’s not a Wright home.”
Wright faced his home toward the southwest so that it would make the most efficient use of available light & heat during the winter months when he stayed there. He envisioned his home as a boat, sailing through the open desert. Below, Tyler, Paul, and I were standing at what Wright would have considered the bow of his ship. Water supply for Taliesin West comes from a well that’s 480 feet underground.
Inside, the roof was covered in canvas to allow in light. Windows were not added to Taliesin West until the late 1940s, a full ten years after it was built. Wright had originally intended for it to be an open-air structure. The chairs pictured here are “origami” chairs.
When the windows were added, Wright asked this vase to not be moved. Instead, a hole was cut around the vase so that it could stay exactly where it was sitting.
Plush green grass was planted to provide a place for children to play. Wright had many dozens of apprentices who brought their families here.
Doors at Taliesin West often require visitors to duck or tightly squeeze through. Wright thought thought of this as a way to “compress” his visitors before “releasing” them into the larger spaces inside. He used space as a way to move people into the areas where he wanted them to reside.
This is a “selfie” I took facing a mirror in Frank Lloyd Wright’s bedroom.
His bathroom was constructed almost entirely of stainless steel.
The dining room faced the McDowell Mountains. Wright didn’t like to obstruct corners of the building with supporting poles. Notice that the glass here is joined at the corner and the support system is further back.
Out in the yard, there’s a dragon on a rock that was originally designed to be used as a water fountain. Wright’s wife, Olgivanna, had it converted into a gas-powered flame-thrower! It’s still used today during special engagements. Notice how the surrounding plant is partially burned.
Rarely will you ever find 90-degree angles in a Frank Lloyd Wright home. Every wall or ceiling is tilted in some fashion, because Wright didn’t like how straight walls felt like “living in boxes.”
“The reality of the building does not consist in its roof and walls but in the space within to be lived.”
This auditorium can house over 100 people and was often used for special black-tie occasions and concerts. It was the last building added to the Taliesin West estate before Wright passed away. Its nonparallel ceiling & floor and angled walls make it almost like a giant megaphone, transferring sound clearly all the way to the back row.
Thanks to my friends for joining on this adventure! I took a picture of my ILX at the entrance to Taliesin West much like Frank Lloyd Wright may have liked to do with his prized 1940 Continental. Except, I’m guessing he would’ve custom-ordered his ILX in Cherokee Red.
In other news: A few weeks ago, I met an online celebrity (to me, anyway!) named Leif who runs a page called “Ugly House Photos.” As a Phoenix area real estate agent, Leif gets to see more than his fair share offbeat or interesting discoveries in peoples’ homes. Give his page a look!
Finally, we have a milestone to commemorate today:
For awhile now, we’ve been following the progress of my friend Francesco in Italy as he racks up the kilometers on his 2005 Fiat. He first reached out to me in May 2012 at 240,000 kilometers. He sends me updates every once in awhile, and I’m happy to report that this past weekend he rolled the big 300,000 mark.
Congratulations my friend!