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Architecture School Immersion Students Build Timber Installation at Taliesin

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | Aug 10, 2017

“[Wood] is the most humanly intimate of all materials. Man loves his association with it, likes to feel it under his hand, sympathetic to his touch and to his eye. Wood is universally beautiful to Man.” – Frank Lloyd Wright, 1928

As part of their 8-week Immersion Program at the School of Architecture at Taliesin, students, with community support, built a timber installation on the grounds of Taliesin in Wisconsin.

The students in the Immersion Program – Will Fagan from New Jersey, Donna Baber from the United Kingdom, and Rishabh Barot, Moin Vohra, Devendra Patel and Mayursinh Vala from India, have been studying in Spring Green, Wisconsin for 8 weeks between June and August. Their charge, set by visiting professor Jason Griffiths, has been to study timber and its role in the legacy of North American architecture.

Front row (left to right): Donna Baber, student; Rishabh Barot, student; Moin Vohra, student; Jim Birkemeier, owner of Spring Green Timber Growers and his partner Tracy Thaden; Scott Lyon, forest products specialist in the Division of Forestry at Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Jason Griffiths; visiting professor for the Immersion Program; Aaron Betsky, president of the School of Architecture; and Chris Lasch, dean of the School of Architecture, Taliesin.

Back row (left to right)Will Fagan, Mayursinh Vala, Devendra Patel, all students.  

Photo by Andrew Pielage

“In the last ten years advances in engineered lumber have offered serious alternatives to concrete and steel. For the first time since the preindustrial era we are building mass-timber structures in dense urban settings,” Griffiths said. “This is particularly significant in North America, especially the northern states and Canada, where timber is an inseparable part of the cultural legacy of buildings and forestry production. Our project is a small demonstration of the potential of ‘dowel laminated timber’ which is a form of engineered lumber that can be produced locally by working with nearby mills and architecture students.”

The students experimented by creating a dowel-laminated structure using basswood as an introduction to engineered lumber. As part of their studies, they created drawings, plans and an experimental model, and used these to encourage local businesses to help them in building a final full-scale installation that narrates wood as a symbolic architectural entity.

Photos by Will Fagan and Donna Baber

With donations of timber, shingles, hardware and concrete from local mills and suppliers such as Senger Lumber, Timbergreen Farm, Tri County Building Supply, Singer Lumber and the Division of Forestry Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, students were able to embark on a full-scale construction in the grounds of Taliesin.

“The importance of students doing full scale fabrication in studio projects is an invaluable experience, this is part of the tradition of ‘learning by doing’ originated in the arts and crafts movement and is central to the teaching of Frank Lloyd Wright,” Griffiths said. “The contributions and donations go a long way to allowing us to achieve these goals.”

Photos by Neeta Patel and Jason Griffiths


The final structure is based on a concentric organization of timber in its different states.  Now complete, it will remain on site and become part of the architecture, landscape, and visitor experience of Taliesin.

“As a visitor to the area, I am excited that this project gives us an opportunity to work with and showcase the products of local timber merchants in Wisconsin in a design that builds on our studies into traditional shingle style construction, is sympathetic to the local region, and gives an opportunity to celebrate to the region’s natural resources and those who produce it,” Baber said.  “The opportunity to draw the community together to create this project feels like an extension of the community we have experienced and been a part of at Taliesin and in Spring Green.  I see it as a chance to give something back by way of thanks for the once in a lifetime opportunity we have had to study and live here and be welcomed by so many in the community.”

Photos by Neeta Patel

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