One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s later residential designs, the nautilus-like 1952 David and Gladys Wright House, will be donated to the School of Architecture at Taliesin. According to an announcement this morning, the donation will allow school administrators, professors, students, and visiting scholars to live at the home and become artists in residence.
“The School of Architecture has a long tradition of apprenticeship,” said Aaron Betsky, the school’s current dean. “What’s great about this is that we get to live in Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. This allows us to come off the hills, be right in the middle of the Phoenix valley, and live and work inside this incredible house. It helps us as students and teachers understand how we can live in the desert southwest.”
Owner Zach Rawling, who purchased the home in 2012 for $2.4 million and saved it from demolition, approached the school with the idea of using the home as a “living laboratory.” Rawling had previously set up a foundation with the intent of turning the home into a museum, but believes the donation, and new purpose, will help preserve the home’s legacy while opening it up to the public. Some neighbors were concerned the museum, and its potential role as a commercial event space for rent, would bring excess traffic to the neighborhood, but the planned role as a residential and educational space should eliminate those fears, according to Rawling.
“This brings the house to life and gives a meaning to the place in the best way we could hope,” he says. “It invites the local Phoenix community to experience the house as a living place, and see that Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas are still alive and well.”
The home will be formally gifted to a new supporting organization of the Arizona Community Foundation for the benefit of the School of Architecture at Taliesin.
According to Betsky, faculty and students will live at the house, use it for studio classes, and host workshops, discussions, and public events, helping connect the institution and its work with the Phoenix community.
A restoration program headed by Victor Sidy, the architect for planning and preservation at the David Wright House, and Chris Winters, who will oversee landscape restoration, will continue Rawling’s efforts to protect and preserve the home. Students will assist with the effort, part of the school’s ethos of “learning by doing.” Sidy expects the total cost to be near $3 million.
The David and Gladys Wright House was one of Wright’s early spherical designs, a form that realized its apex in his Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The home originally curved up over what were then citrus groves in the Arizona desert. The restoration will replant more than 300 citrus trees throughout the current 6-acre site.