Monday, December 8, 2008

Taliesin in Trouble

The Bench front page... Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin (sorry Oak Park and Chicago, you don't count; Spring Green was the old man's base of operations) is in bad shape. Taliesin lies just outside of the little village of about 1,500 people, about 40 miles due west of Madison. It sits on a bit of a hill, next to the Wisconsin River in a picturesque setting. Preservationists are worried that the complex is literally falling apart. According to the Wisconsin State Journal (Madison), "In the 20 years since preservationists sounded the alarms about the dire condition of the six main buildings at Taliesin, $11 million has been spent on them." Full article... So they're working to fix it up. It is worth preserving. I personally don't like Wright architecture; most of his houses were notoriously drafty, roofs often leaked, and the spaces inside are cramped. There are exceptions, of course, but generally that's the rule. Growing up in Madison as I did, many of my friends lived in Wright houses. I attended nursery school at the Unitarian Church on that Wright built on University Avenue. My mother grew up in Spring Green, and she often played on the grounds of Taliesin. Her mother, and other ladies of Spring Green, worked as servers and kitchen help when the Wrights threw big parties. Frank gave my grandmother a beautiful set of exquisite china as a token of his appreciation for her years of helping out around the sprawling grounds. Whenever we would visit Grandma in Spring Green, we'd drive out to Taliesin. The old Dutch Kitchen Restaurant, no longer there, I'm told, would have a lot of old timers who knew Wright and his wife. Photos of Wright and his buildings were on the walls of a lot of businesses on Main Street. By the time I was 12 years old, I was burned out on Anything Frank Lloyd Wright. Been there, done that. Nevertheless, my biases aside, the influence of Wright is far reaching and undeniable, and so from a purely historic perspective, anything Wright should be preserved. Taliesin in Spring Green is stunning to see. The first time you approach it you gasp. When you consider the way that Wright's genius still influences architects worldwide, you realize that little Spring Green was once a bright star in the universe of architecture. It would be a shame to see the distant, tell tale light of that now far off star extinguished.