Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

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Roderick Grant
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Roderick Grant »

A quibble: Quentin Beran writes:

"Wright conceived the architecture of Taliesin West as a combination of elementary shapes which reproduced the volumes of the McDowell Mountains to construct a perfect aesthetic matching between the natural and the artificial."

Is there a single word in that sentence that does not belong, or am I being too picky?

SDR
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by SDR »

The last one . . .

S

Tom
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Tom »

There does seem something forced about the sentence as a whole.
Also, the main idea strikes me as kinda glib.
I have not read the article - so I know nothing.
But if there is a single word that does not belong I would say it is the word: 'matching'

Tom
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Tom »

Just saw SDR's post on 'the last one' ....
yeah ... is TWest somewhere between the natural and artificial?
I don't like the use of the word artificial here either.
..matching between the natural and the artificial?

I think it should be two sentences instead of one.
The first half seems to stand ok but I'm bothered by the use of the word 'reproduced' there. I would have used something like: translated.
Also "perfect aesthetic' annoys me as well. -just too precious.

I dont think Roderick is being too picky at all. The use of language about Wright is important for those who care about the essential meaning of the work.

SDR
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by SDR »

So---rewrite the sentence as you would have it. A useful exercise ?

S

Tom
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Tom »

First rule of standard practice in writing is to "omit needless words" (E.B.White)
Applying that rule one could almost reduce the entire thing to something like:

Wright conceived the architecture of TWest as translating the McDowell Mountains.

Then of course the question arises - is that true?

SDR
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by SDR »

Wright implied that it was so. It's the kind of thing an architect might like to say, about his building; designers revere context above many other criteria, quite rightly.

Vincent Scully, in "Architecture--The Natural and the Manmade," managed to fill a book with examples. Ever a
Wright enthusiast, near the end he gets to T West:

Image
Image

Copyright © 1991 by Vincent Scully

Tom
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Tom »

Would like to get into Scully's spin a little bit.
It's a question about Wright's influences and design processes - of interest to some and not others.

First, here is an excerpt from a letter of Wrights' to Ashbee (I'm pulling this from Alofsins' The Lost Years).
Ashbee wrote the introduction to the smaller volume that Wasmuth published. In it Ashbee claims that Wright was taking directly and conciously from Japanese forms.

Here is Wright's reply:

My conscience troubles me - Do not say that I deny that my love for Japanese art has influenced me - I admit that it has but claim to have digested it - Do not accuse me of "trying to adapt Japanese forms" however, that is a false allegation and against my religion. Say it more truthfully even if it does mean saying it more gently

Tom
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Tom »

In that reply to Ashbee Wright is splitting hairs. My inclination is to attempt the argument from Wright's side of things.
So taking his example I'm going to split hairs too.

Beran says Wright "reproduced" the McDowell Mountains. Scully takes Levine's word to imply Wright "imitated" them. I have used the word "translate".

But I think now that all of those words fall on the side of Ashbee and Wright is very clear that he is not doing that.
Scully does use the word "echo" to describe the relation between the mountains and the TWest compound. That does seem better than any of the other words so far. Moreover, after brooding over this a little, Scullys' description of how TWest "echoes" the ridges and valleys of the mountains can't be dismissed out of hand. In other words Scully seems to be saying, for example, that the roof beams of the drafting room derive from those "deeply eroded striations" of the mountains in the picture that SDR posted above. Maybe, but all that seems too literal for me.

In some sense TWest looks nothing like those Mountains. I see the slanted walls and the slanted roofs. Yes the mountains are slanted too. Yet in some sense TWest looks only like it's self while at the very same time it is undoubtedly OF the desert.

Wright uses the superficially crude word "digested" to convey what he does. Meaning the stuff goes in and becomes a part of him before it goes out. Makes me think of words like 'alchemy' and 'transformation'. Meaning there can be no final formula of reproduction, imitation, or translation. He may be doing those things - he admits to Ashbee that he has been influenced by Japanese art. All that is helpful in understanding the work. Yet an emphasis on all that de-emphasizes the originality Wright came to architecture with. TWest is inimitable. Exactly like those mountains are inimitable. It might be that quality those two different things share, even more than their echoes, that bind them so closely.

Rood
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Rood »

Taliesin West is more a loving abstraction of the desert and the mountains than anything else, so just leave it at that.

Roderick Grant
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Roderick Grant »

When FLW first arrived in the desert, he noticed how the mountains conformed, through millennia of erosion and settlement, to comply with the 60 degree angle, a revelation not to be found in the endless, soft flatness of the Midwest Prairie, as corroboration of what he already was doing by finding geometry in nature. He also said that the straight line did not belong in the desert, more properly, it was the abstract dotted line. And it was there that he gave up on symmetry, or rather redefined it.

Having come from a place flatter than Richland Center, I can understand how a first visit to a more rugged environment can have an effect on one's perceptions. It wasn't until 1957 that I saw the desert, in my case, the Painted Desert, which is alike and different from the Sonoran Desert. On the Prairie, one's attention turns to the sky. In the desert, it is the land.

All of it is, as Rood points out, "loving abstraction of the desert and the mountains."

Tom
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Tom »

You two are just so loving. I'm touched.

Tom
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by Tom »

July 2nd I fell out of a tree and shattered my lower left tibia (compound pilon and comminuted fracture). Surgery put steel inside my leg and a dozen screws to hold it in place. Doctors orders to elevate the leg and put NO weight on it for a very long time. Consequently I've got extra time on my hands. Hence all this recent thinking and posting.

... Scully was obviously talented and smart. Sometimes it occurs to me that those talents got ahead of his subject matter. The comparison of TWest with Hadrians Villa is an example of this for me. One of the first reasons to not compare TWest with Hadrians Villa is because it's Roman and all that it stood for. I think Wright was adverse to 'the Roman' and this comparison feels like an example of Scully's academic world taking control of things. Second, Scully says TWest is an affair of intersecting diagonal axis like Hadrians Villa. That is simply not true. Obviously TWest has at least one major intersecting diagonal axis, but TWest is not composed entirely of that at all - the literal core of the project is orthogonal, no?

... for me, if there is any one historical work that TWest resembles it's the Minoan Palace at Knossos - and Minoan architecture in general and there are no diagonal axis to be found at all that I know of in those archeological remains. Yet, the quality of Knossos has been described as like a labyrinth and it's time period is archaic, way before Greek and Roman orders, or "primitive" - a time and quality in world architecture that appealed to Wright according to the strong case made again by Alofsin in The Lost Years.

...finally it seems the Palace at Knossos was first "discovered" and documented in Wright's lifetime and in his library today at TWest there is a 1921 copy of the following:

https://flwlibrary.sites.stanford.edu/p ... iscoveries

Plan at Knossos
http://www.odysseyadventures.ca/article ... cePlan.jpg

Plan at Hadrians Villa
https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/sea ... tion=click

The fact that Wright had these volumes is only to imply that he was aware of the existence of this work. It is not to imply that he "adapted" this work to TWest in the sense that Ashbee claimed Wright did with the architecture of Japan. There are also some volumes in the TWest library on the work of John Russel Pope. It's understatement to say that Wright was not influenced by Pope.

SDR
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Re: Article: "How Staying at Taliesin West Altered My Perception of the Site"

Post by SDR »

It will be interesting to see what others make of these arguments.

I think we could wish that historians like Scully and Alofsin would confine their work to unearthing and displaying the results of their researches, and leave the theorizing and strained connection-drawing to the reader; see for instance Donald Hoffman, Robert Sweeney, Jack Quinan or Kathryn Smith.

The site plan that must be considered alongside TWest's is the one for Florida Southern College, from the same period.

S

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