News and updates from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in a New Light

Christopher Thompson | Jul 26, 2018

Christopher Thompson, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Board of Trustees member and founder and principal of Studio Lux architectural lighting design, shares the process behind his award-winning landscape lighting design for Taliesin West.

Taliesin West was the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, up until his death in 1959. Wright used the school as a work/live environment and a place for inspiration, education, and innovation. In keeping with that spirit, Taliesin West has undergone several transformations: The following images show the end-result of a complete retrofit of every outdoor lighting fixture and/or lamp on campus, each being painstakingly changed—with great attention to detail—to LED.

Along with the addition of a solar array, not far from the main buildings, the power reduction exceeded 60%. Further, to bring the exterior lighting to light levels considered safe, and to promote nighttime tours and facility use, a complete landscape lighting design and installation was completed. While the usual challenges were present, as with any lighting design and project management effort, the addition of having “no budget” was paramount in this undertaking. Our role as lighting designers was made more challenging by our role to secure all the materials and labor — by donations made from the community near and far, including many members of the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals — to execute the work pursuant to our design. Wright’s legacy lives on in this iconic structure, here for the world to see, and now to be seen at night slightly better than before.

All photos by Terry Rishel.

1. Fixtures which use WiFi control allowed the installation to go forward without the burden of identifying switch-legs for control.

2. Balance between the interior and exterior was important. We were not afraid of shadows. We use them for tension and release.

3. Foreground and background was part of the design. Your experience of light changes in just a few steps. It was never about uniformity.

4. The hand off between the lighting in a building, on a building, and around a building was part of the process of the design.

5. Taliesin West is “a lantern on a hill.” Our design needed to support this community insistence while addressing the specific challenges by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s Preservation Committee.

6. The demographic of tour participants is such that light levels, while moving from interior to exterior, had to be carefully considered.



Studio Lux was awarded the IES Illumination Award 2018 for Outdoor Lighting Design for this incredible work at Taliesin West.

The Outdoor Lighting Design Award recognizes excellence in lighting design and application in all aspects of exterior lighting. The program celebrates achievements in aesthetics, applied technical acumen, creative solutions to demanding site conditions and advancements to the industry in outdoor lighting applications. The goal of the program is to further the understanding, knowledge and function of outdoor lighting as a critical aspect of the built environment.


Christopher Thompson is a member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Board of Trustees, and founder and principal of Studio Lux architectural lighting design.

Studio Lux is an internationally recognized architectural lighting design firm. In our portfolio of world-class hospitality, civic, museum and artwork, retail, residential and commercial spaces, Studio Lux balances the artistry and technology of illumination to deliver exceptional design. We believe the practice of effective lighting design is not just for large iconic projects. It is as important for a favorite room of a residence as it is for a luxury office tower or educational facility. We never lose sight of the human condition and how lighting impacts mood, feeling and perception.

Take a Night Lights Tour at Taliesin West

The romance of Taliesin West comes to life during this special evening tour, an excellent date night activity. Taliesin West’s fire-breathing dragon makes a guest appearance while Wright’s desert masterpiece glows warmly like a jewel under Arizona’s starry skies. Reservations are required.

Reserve now


News and updates from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation