The Reinterpretation of Historic Spaces at Taliesin West
Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | Jan 8, 2021
Historic Core Spaces at Taliesin West have recently been reinterpreted to resemble Wright-Era glory. Find out how these restoration projects embody the original essence and legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Contemporary reinterpretation photos by Andrew Pielage.
Visitors to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West will now enjoy new nods to the past thanks to a number of reinterpretation and restoration projects completed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation designed to resurrect the essence the site had when it served as the prolific architect’s winter laboratory in the late 1950s.
As Taliesin West continued to be a living space long after Wright’s passing, many changes to furnishings, upholstery, layout and overall ambience occurred over the years to suit the lifestyle of Mrs. Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship, and to later accommodate tour programs. Faced with a temporary shutdown in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Foundation’s Preservation and Collections departments pragmatically utilized the period to conduct research on the site’s key Historic Core—including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Office, the Garden Room, Living Quarters, Dining Cove and Sunset Terrace—to determine how they could be reinterpreted to provide an even richer experience when guests returned.
Phase one began with the teams poring over hundreds of historic photographs and archival reference materials to get a sense of how Wright decorated, used, and often rearranged his environs with eclectic, beautiful artifacts and designs. Using the legacy imagery, detailed reports were created tracking the changes made over time and identifying what authentic art, furnishings and other textures still lived in the collections onsite and could be reintroduced to the spaces to return them to their earlier states, and what would need to be recreated.
“The reinterpretation work completed at Taliesin West in recent weeks was largely centered around what could be done to give visitors a better understanding of Wright’s philosophies, and to demonstrate how those principles are still relevant and important today,” said Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Director of Preservation Emily Butler. “The research that was done allowed us to reconstruct and reinstall the elements necessary to make the already compelling architectural wonder even more expressive and beautiful.”
One of the most impactful projects completed in Phase One involved the restoration of a historic and beloved Chinese screen in the Dining Cove. The intricate, multi-media screen was reinstalled in a large frame and then further protected from the effects of the desert with non-reflective Optium Museum Acrylic®, generously donated by TruVue. Prominent conservator and chair of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Board of Trustees T.K. McClintock lead the pro bono restoration of the showpiece screen, along with the design of the protective case.
“From something as simple as placing chairs around a fireplace to the more in-depth reconstruction of some of the room’s original furnishings, it all changes how the site is experienced and evokes a renewed sense of life in the spaces,” Butler said. “The Foundation is committed to continuously evolving Taliesin West as Wright did himself when he lived there, which presents a really unique opportunity for guests to see something new and exciting with every visit.”
In phase two, the Foundation hopes to continue reinterpretation efforts by re-upholstering the current orange-colored furniture, which was originally introduced in the 1970s, back to the rusty red, yellow-gold and subdued blue hues accurate to the late 1950s. The next round of projects will also focus on reintroducing architectural features that divide the larger room with visually compelling components that provide an intimate gathering space with views to the garden.