The Living Legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Environmental Sensibility

Taliesin West main studio. Photo by Andrew Russeth, some rights reserved.

When Frank Lloyd Wright set his sights on a swath of Arizona desert outside Phoenix in 1937 to be his winter home and school, it was with the idea that Arizona needed its own architecture for its landscape of “long, low, sweeping lines, uptilting planes.” Taliesin West, nestled into the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, embraced its desert environment, built from nearby desert rocks and allowing the sun or immense shadows to heat or cool the home depending on the time of year. Still the winter home of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, students continuously updated and added to the complex under Frank Lloyd Wright’s direction.

So while this week’s announcement from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation that Taliesin West will be updated to reduce its annual $200,000 energy bill is making headlines on the green blog circuit, it is “something that is entirely consistent with the history and values of Taliesin West,” in the words of Sean Malone, the Foundation’s president. Construction starts next month to add 4,000 solar panels covering 1.9 acres, replace 5,000 light bulbs, and improve windows and roofs.

The Foundation emphasizes that neither views Taliesin West was designed to showcase nor its historical appearance will be affected, with solar panels to be installed near existing electrical equipment. Efficient light bulbs will provide color and lighting similar to those being replaced, Lucite on some roofs will be replaced by similar-looking fiberglass, and a new air conditioning system will adjust each room’s temperature and lighting based on occupancy.

Several Arizona companies have contributed to the project, which was initiated by a free energy audit from Big Green Zero and is being propelled forward by First Solar, Inc.’s donation of solar panels and installation labor.

In other news, a 26 year old woman was arrested for burning down the 3,500 year old cypress in Florida nicknamed ‘the Senator.’ The woman told investigators that when she was sitting inside the hollow tree doing meth with a friend, she “lit a fire so they could see better.”

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