The memory of Frank Lloyd Wright burns brightly at Taliesin West.
Tales of the famed architect and his late wife Olgivanna filled the campus at Wright’s north Scottsdale winter home and studio the past few days as scores of former students and protégés gathered to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Fellowship of apprentices.
But it wasn’t just a weekend of reminiscing.
Through a series of scholarly seminars and panel discussions, the generations of Taliesin and Taliesin West apprentices were asked to engage in debates over the future of architecture and how to apply Wright’s concept of organic architecture to contemporary issues such as sustainable environments and global warming.
“We can realize the potential for what we believe is a bright future and carry on the essence of Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy,” Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation president and CEO Phil Allsopp told reunion participants on Saturday.
Allsopp urged the alumni at the event — some of whom worked directly with Wright — to take a leadership role and help the foundation and future generations of Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture students create new ways of dealing with building issues. Allsopp told attendees the foundation is in the process of formulating plans to partner with national educational entities and showcase their treasure of Wright’s works with major national venues.
The key to carrying on Wright’s legacy is the foundation’s ability to tap into the minds of perhaps one of their greatest resources: their legions of apprentices, known as “the Fellowship,” which are about 1,900 strong.
“There is still a sense of excitement about Frank Lloyd Wright’s prospectus and what it represents today,” said Victor Sidy, dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, referring to Wright’s early 1930s document which came to serve as a blueprint for what would become the foundation for the Fellowship and the experiential learning environment at the school of architecture.
Living legends, such as architect and longtime fellowship member John Rattenbury, are helping the next generation of students reinterpret Wright’s ideas.
“The apprentices are like our children in the way that we were like the children of Frank and Olgivanna,” said Rattenbury, who has lived and worked at Taliesin West since arriving in Scottsdale as an apprentice in 1950.
Rattenbury described the Wrights as a couple who took an interest in their students’ lives as well as their studies. He said Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t afraid to experiment with architecture.
“He led architecture in a new direction,” said Rattenbury. “He blazed trails no one blazed before.”