The Architecture School Founded by Frank Lloyd Wright May Now Close Entirely After Cutting Ties With His Foundation

The fate of the School of Architecture at Taliesin has been in ongoing flux.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 9, 2017. Photo: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 9, 2017. Photo: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation has declined to renew the lease for the architecture school that Wright founded in 1932, leaving the institution without a home.

Word first came in late January that the graduate School of Architecture at Taliesin—which operates campuses in both Spring Green, Wisconsin, and Scottsdale, Arizona—might dissolve after the school’s board announced that it had voted to shut the school down. The resolution, which, according to the board, was made after the foundation terminated its lease on the school’s campus, caused an uproar in the architecture community.

Then, on March 5, the board announced that it had reversed its previous decision and intended to keep the school’s two campuses in operation, providing some hope to those who had been lamenting the loss of Wright’s 88-year-old academy. 

“The legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright embodied by the school is, as the outpouring of support has shown, one of international importance,” said Dan Schweiker, the chair of the school’s board of governors, in a statement at the time. “The quality of the work the students have been doing in recent years is excellent. It would be a severe blow to the future of architecture if these talented students would not have the chance to continue this legacy.” The board that it had secured new funding and called on the foundation to renew its land agreement in Taliesin to make its plan possible. 

But yesterday, the Wright foundation’s own board effectively quashed that plan, revealing that it has “voted unanimously to allow its agreement with the School of Architecture to expire at the end of July 2020.” 

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, his winter home and architectural school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, his winter home and architectural school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images.

The decision, foundation president Stuart Graff said in a public letter, was made after the school failed to provide information about the new funding it had acquired. The foundation has now ended its discussions with the school.

“Given the uncertainties around the school’s viability, the foundation will return to its own efforts to develop new programs in architect education that advance Wright’s legacy, his pedagogical ideas, and the integrity of Taliesin and Taliesin West as architectural campuses,” Graff wrote. “These campuses are living spaces that preserve an ongoing experience of Wright’s legacy, including the 88-year legacy of training architects in the drafting studios. That vital part of the legacy will continue.”

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The foundation has received pushback for its decision. It is “ignoring the enthusiastic and unanimous support from the fellows, the tens of thousands of people who have expressed their desire for the school to continue, the plea from the Arizona Private and Post-Secondary Education Committee Board for mediation, and the confidence our banks and supporters have put in us,” said Aaron Betsky, outgoing president of the school, in a statement.

A representative for the legal team representing the school notes that the school’s board “plans to convene to discuss next steps—whether that includes arbitration, mediation, or court action.” 


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