News and updates from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

University of Oklahoma Students Explore Rich History of Design at Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | Oct 4, 2019

In May, 13 students from the University of Oklahoma’s Gibbs College of Architecture visited Taliesin West for an eight-day immersive program where they studied Frank Lloyd Wright’s design through in-depth, studio-based experiences.

Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and desert camp located in Scottsdale, Arizona boasts a rich history of innovation in the field of design. From the architecture itself, to the details of the interiors, Wright created a thoughtfully-curated space, with each choice down to the smallest of details being intentional.

This May, in partnership with the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT), 13 students who study at the University of Oklahoma’s Gibbs College of Architecture had the opportunity to learn from Wright’s principles firsthand when they visited Taliesin West for an eight-day immersion program. Undergraduate and graduate students from several of the school’s programs including interior design, architecture, environmental design, landscape design, and regional and city planning, participated in the program.

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Vice President of Preservation, Fred Prozzillo, giving the University of Oklahoma students a tour of Taliesin West.

During their visit they explored Taliesin West through in-depth studio-based experiences including tours and individual exploration of the house, educational lectures and discussions, and studio exercises crafted to deepen students’ understanding of Wright’s design. The students also stayed in a SoAT student-built shelter of their choosing and were tasked with creating a light or screening intervention for the shelter they stayed in.

The hands-on course contributes to the school’s interior design program’s accreditation objectives through the understanding of the built environment and its impact upon the human experience, the relationship between the natural and built environment, and more.

“This course really broadened my horizon in many ways,” Casey Meyer, University of Oklahoma architecture student said. “My outlook on how architecture and interior design should be approached has changed for the better. Understanding, or experiencing the time, effort and thought that was put into each foot of each building really left me astonished. That is the type of thoughtful design I want to pursue. Not cutting corners and using the land to your advantage. Overall, this course was truly inspiring and such unique experience.”

The students also lived like apprentices not only by living in the student shelters, but also by experiencing School of Architecture at Taliesin traditions like preparing meals for one another and cleaning up after the meals. While they were in Scottsdale the students also visited several other sites of architectural significance including the David and Gladys Wright House, the David Dodge estate, and Arcosanti. In summer 2020, the students will visit Wright’s Taliesin Estate in Spring Green, Wisconsin to conclude their research and teaching triad.


University of Oklahoma students exploring the SoAT student-built shelter “Hook” at Taliesin West.

University of Oklahoma students presenting their screen interventions on a SoAT student-built shelter in the desert.

The course was created and led by Mia Kile, Associate Professor and Natalie Ellis, Assistant Professor, both of the Division of Interior Design in the Gibbs College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma.

“The students were affected profoundly by the experience,” Natalie Ellis said. “The student’s living and design became integrated and profoundly harmonious, and they were able to learn the impact of shelter and what an occupant’s base needs would be through the opportunity to camp out in the desert shelters. While this was a student choice, as they had climate-controlled options on the campus base, the students recognized the value of the experience for themselves personally and for their future creative endeavors.”

“Now, the students have a better understanding of organic architecture as well as a newfound respect for nature and the environment when designing the built environment,” Mia Kile said.