Thursday, August 13, 2009

3566.6 (320.6) Miles to Winona, Minnesota

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After leaving Chicago, I drove up to Wisconsin. A short drive up to Madison, then I wound my way to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home. Taliesin is also where my great grandfather worked with Wright, including designing the Engineer's Cottage on the grounds, and where he is buried with his wife (not coincidentally, my great grandmother).

I arrived at Taliesin just in time to catch the highlights tour, featuring the house and Hillside, which today houses the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. I was the youngest person of the 14 on the tour by 3 or 4 decades. The tour guide seemed genuinely excited to have a relative of one of Wright's apprentices on the tour, and pointed out the Engineer's Cottage to me, as well as pictures of people who were colleagues of my great grandfather. The buildings are impressive, and there is a certain amount to amuse in them as well. Hillside has a cornerstone that includes Wright's name. Apparently, it is the only building that has such a cornerstone. Wright would later include a red tile with his initials on a few buildings, but he would never again ingrain his name in the building itself, wanting the building's to seem as natural as possible in their surroundings. To that end, he blended the buildings with their gardens, put a huge emphasis on sightlines, and used an uneven style for his stone walls, not letting the walls be flat, but instead rough and natural, as if the house appeared out of the side of a mountain.

The School of Architecture, which splits its time between Wisconsin and Taliesin West in Arizona, has less than 30 students. Not less than 30 per class, less than 30 TOTAL. Hundreds apply for the places, and the chance to live and work in one of Wright's buildings and under his name. Even 50 years after his death, the Wright name hold's a special place of influence and mystique in American architecture.

There is a lot of eastern influence on Wright's work. The house at Taliesin has a very Japanese feel to it. And that doesn't even include the Japanese prints or Chinese rugs or the Buddhas that grace every room. It is simply the angles, and the feel of the place. And the prints, rugs, and Buddhas certainly help.

Best line of the day, courtesy of Wright himself. After fire destroyed the living space of his house at Taliesin, but did not damage his work studio, he commented on the less-than-perfect personal life he had led. Words were to the effect of "God disapproves of my morality, but loves my work."

After leaving Taliesin, I wound my way up to the Mississippi River, and, crossing it into Minnesota, landed in Winona for the night. Tomorrow, just a short drive to the Twin Cities.

Pictures all of the Taliesin grounds.

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