Wisconsin’s Taliesin: Home of Prairie Architecture

In this installment of Larger Than Life: Architecture Through the Ages, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and center of his architectural ideas.
Wisconsin’s Taliesin: Home of Prairie Architecture
Taliesin sits on a hill. The residential wing and garden court are in keeping with Wright’s theories of organic architecture. He maintained that buildings should be designed to fit into their surroundings rather than stand out from them. The home’s rooflines follow the lines of the hills; its light plaster walls complement the flat stretches of sand in the Lower Wisconsin River below; the weathered, silver-gray roof shingles are a similar hue of oak branches; and, the limestone, quarried less than a mile, mimics the nearby stone outcroppings. Also evident are the cantilever roofs and wide windows. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
11/6/2023
Updated:
11/13/2023
0:00

Taliesin, the quintessentially Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home on 800 acres in Spring Green, Wisconsin, has had many lives, beginning with its 1911 construction, rebuilds (due to fire) in 1914 and 1925, and restorations. At 37,000 square feet, the fact that the home was designed by Wright is evident in its varied levels and in the number of windows: 500-plus.

A Welsh word that means “shining brow,” “Taliesin” was chosen by Wright (1867–1959) as the name of the dwelling where he would live and work for nearly 50 years. It is a structure that expresses his prairie-style organic architecture, featuring local materials, in this case yellow limestone and Lower Wisconsin River sand.

The property evolved to become not just the home where Wright lived and worked, but also a studio, a school of architecture, and a self-sufficient working farm. Wright invited architectural apprentices there to glean from his experience; he called these working visitors the fingers of his hand. Wright lived at Taliesin until his death at age 91.

Built in 1925, the Garden Court features a wide variety of plants that Wright originally selected for Taliesin, including several native varieties. When designing the garden, Wright also actively reused and repurposed the materials around him, such as the red flower trellises, which are upcycled animal stanchions and water pipes, and the fountain, which is a recycled horse trough. Stone walls, steps, and pathways indicate Wright’s preference for nature and architecture to converge. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
Built in 1925, the Garden Court features a wide variety of plants that Wright originally selected for Taliesin, including several native varieties. When designing the garden, Wright also actively reused and repurposed the materials around him, such as the red flower trellises, which are upcycled animal stanchions and water pipes, and the fountain, which is a recycled horse trough. Stone walls, steps, and pathways indicate Wright’s preference for nature and architecture to converge. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
A loggia is a corridor or gallery that is accessible to and mostly open to the outside. This view from inside Taliesin’s loggia faces the Garden Room at the rear of the home. Prominent is the “Pine with Cherry Blossoms and Birds” wall art by Kano Yasunobu (1613–1685), featuring six painted wooden panels depicting spring, which Wright modified to wrap around the wall. Polished stone floors and a double-sided stone fireplace emphasize the natural elements. Plaster for the interior walls was mixed with sienna, an earth pigment containing iron oxide and manganese oxide, to achieve a golden hue reflective of Taliesin’s pastoral setting. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
A loggia is a corridor or gallery that is accessible to and mostly open to the outside. This view from inside Taliesin’s loggia faces the Garden Room at the rear of the home. Prominent is the “Pine with Cherry Blossoms and Birds” wall art by Kano Yasunobu (1613–1685), featuring six painted wooden panels depicting spring, which Wright modified to wrap around the wall. Polished stone floors and a double-sided stone fireplace emphasize the natural elements. Plaster for the interior walls was mixed with sienna, an earth pigment containing iron oxide and manganese oxide, to achieve a golden hue reflective of Taliesin’s pastoral setting. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
A 1956 bust of Frank Lloyd Wright, attributed to sculptor Heloise Crista, is placed prominently in the living room. The table lamp was designed by Wright in 1925 and, because of its distinct cantilever arm and a shade with disappearing corners, became one Wright's most sought-after lighting designs. He also designed the room’s rectangular light boxes with plywood shields to be installed in a staggered way, so they mimic the branches of a tree. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
A 1956 bust of Frank Lloyd Wright, attributed to sculptor Heloise Crista, is placed prominently in the living room. The table lamp was designed by Wright in 1925 and, because of its distinct cantilever arm and a shade with disappearing corners, became one Wright's most sought-after lighting designs. He also designed the room’s rectangular light boxes with plywood shields to be installed in a staggered way, so they mimic the branches of a tree. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
The windows in Frank Lloyd Wright’s simple, twin-bed bedroom provided him with a view of the surrounding valley and the hill gardens that he had experienced during childhood. Throughout the house are several prototype chairs from various projects, including the bedroom’s clean-lined wooden chair with an upholstered seat. Paneled Asian-inspired art is the room’s only adornment, other than the hand-woven rug and another of Wright’s unique table lamp designs. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
The windows in Frank Lloyd Wright’s simple, twin-bed bedroom provided him with a view of the surrounding valley and the hill gardens that he had experienced during childhood. Throughout the house are several prototype chairs from various projects, including the bedroom’s clean-lined wooden chair with an upholstered seat. Paneled Asian-inspired art is the room’s only adornment, other than the hand-woven rug and another of Wright’s unique table lamp designs. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
Wright's Drafting Studio, built in 1911, has withstood two fires and served as Wright's main architectural studio for many years. The windows were designed to be low on the southern side so the light from the low southern windows could heat and brighten the space without causing a sharp glare on drafting paper. Yet the many windows afforded a pleasing view of nature beyond the confines of the studio. The ceiling is trimmed in cypress, while the drafting benches’ sides present the unpretentious but recognizable Wright design element. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
Wright's Drafting Studio, built in 1911, has withstood two fires and served as Wright's main architectural studio for many years. The windows were designed to be low on the southern side so the light from the low southern windows could heat and brighten the space without causing a sharp glare on drafting paper. Yet the many windows afforded a pleasing view of nature beyond the confines of the studio. The ceiling is trimmed in cypress, while the drafting benches’ sides present the unpretentious but recognizable Wright design element. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
Another part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio includes a table he used to present work to clients. As part of his open-floor-plan design, this room includes walls that act more as screens than traditional walls. Within the studio are partial walls but also dropped ceilings that divide the space instead of enclose it. “This allows the room to unfold organically, so you do not feel confined by traditional box-like structures,” according to Taliesin Preservation. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
Another part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio includes a table he used to present work to clients. As part of his open-floor-plan design, this room includes walls that act more as screens than traditional walls. Within the studio are partial walls but also dropped ceilings that divide the space instead of enclose it. “This allows the room to unfold organically, so you do not feel confined by traditional box-like structures,” according to Taliesin Preservation. (Courtesy of Taliesin Preservation)
Would you like to see other kinds of arts and culture articles? Please email us your story ideas or feedback at [email protected].