Frank Harmon: The Taliesin Experiment

General / People / Places / April 25, 2011

We are fortunate not only that North Carolina-based artist-turned-architect Frank Harmon made his first pilgrimage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin recently, but also chose to put pen to paper – in more ways than one – while he was there.  His impressions follow:

Taliesin was built and rebuilt three times from 1910 to 1959. And for Frank Lloyd Wright, it was his experimental laboratory.

Taliesin hugs the hillside over a peaceful valley near Spring Green, Wisconsin. Through its horizontal windows, you can glimpse the rolling landscape, the Wisconsin River, and the mid-western sky. Because Taliesin was Wright’s laboratory, many elements are not finished. In fact, the crudeness of some of it is quite shocking.

I visited Taliesin in early March 2011. The hill was covered in snow and icicles hung from the eaves. Although the home and studio were empty, I sensed the incredible vigor of Frank Lloyd Wright, the extraordinary energy he possessed to create and maintain so far-reaching an endeavor on a lonely mid-western hillside.

The spaces inside the building are like no other. Wright located cave-like hearths beneath billowing tents of roof forms. Spaces merge into adjacent spaces in a progression that you simply don’t want to come to an end.

Wright often talked about his architecture as though it was a type of weaving, and at Taliesin you see stone, wood plaster and glass woven together and washed in sunlight. He loved Beethoven more than any artist and there is music in Wright’s architecture.

I saw the Wisconsin hills through his living room window and realized that the living room roof soaring above me was the exact twin of the hills beyond.

Years ago, one of Wright’s clients, Stanley Rosenbaum, told me that visiting Taliesin was like going into a dream world. Standing in the studio overlooking the river, I understood his description: This was Wright’s ideal world, and he was the magician who brought it into being.

To learn more about Taliesin Preservation, Inc., visit

For more on Frank Harmon, go to

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

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1 Comment

on May 1, 2011

Harmon points out how Wright wove materials like wood glass and stone together. It reminds me of seeing his Holly Hock house in Hollywood, where the hearth of the fireplace was a concrete mural of mountains on the left going to a sun-like figure on the right, inlaid with glass and metal designs, with a stream crossing the floor in front of it, so that you felt like you were overlooking an epic vista on another world while feeling the warmth of a fire and the sound of running water. Think of having this ecstatic moment every day after work. He uses materials as elements to accomplish both the creation of a space and an atmosphere.

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