Abstract Language: Taliesin to Tagalog


The Wright Filipino Protege
(images by Mika Kondo + Nipa Patel): "The flags represent the generations of apprentices of Frank Lloyd Wright coming from all over the world. Standing right next to the Philippine flag is the Philippines' representative to Frank Lloyd Wright's laboratory."

A Giant Leap for the Philippines

Ten years ago, the vision that a Filipino architect would be part of the historical legacy of America's most celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was just that---a vision. Even the foundation of the Taliesin Fellowship started off with a vision for twenty-three apprentices in 1932. These generation apprentices span 75 years who in this day, live the legacy that Frank Lloyd Wright initiated.
(Read more about the recent "75th Taliesin Fellowship Reunion: Living the Legacy", in Metropolis Magazine)

The photo above illustrates a very poetic gesture. Numerous flags flanked the entrance to Taliesin West, the winter Home and Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright, during the reunion celebrations. The flags represent the generations of apprentices of Frank Lloyd Wright coming from all over the world. They came from the north to the south and the east to the west. But not until 1997 did this historical fellowship have a representative from the far eastern islands of the Philippines. I had just graduated from college, gotten my license as an architect, and worked with one of the biggest developers in Makati City, when I decided to act on this vision.

I remember this vision had meager funding but profuse ambition. When I went back to Taliesin West this November and saw the Philippine flag standing right next to the historical architectural landmark that is Taliesin West, I thought to myself: "This is like landing on the moon for the first time". It is like "one step for the Filipino architect, one giant leap for the Philippines."
To see more images of the recent Taliesin Celebrations, see:
1. Candid photos
2. Taliesin Reunion website

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............Taliesin Break Away

Next week, the Taliesin Fellowship will be celebrating its 75th Reunion: Living the Legacy. In light of this event, I would like to share an article I wrote 10 years ago for the Wisconsin River Valley Journal's Taliesin Fellowship News Section (September/October 1997 Vol5, Issue 2). Keep in mind that I wrote this piece exactly 5 days after I arrived in Taliesin from Manila, Philippines.

A few months back, I decided to break away from a very typical architectural lifestyle. Being a practicing architect from the Philippines, I would go through the normal routines of the profession---designing, revising, designing, revising, and doing more designing and revising! I guess no matter what part of the globe an architect practices, these are inevitable aspects of the profession. The more I get involved with architecture, the more I want to comprehend its complex nature. With this yearning, I packed my bags, gathered my guts, and flew willfully to Taliesin to satisfy my thirst for architectural knowledge.

Although much of Taliesin was in deep slumber when I made my entry, I was greeted by the stunning Hillside studio. I could not believe that I was actually inside this picture perfect structure that I had only seen in pictures! I remember vividly that sleepless first night at the "shining brow". I had mixed emotions. I was excited with what the next day would bring. At the same time, I was concerned with what I could make of it.

The very first morning, I decided to explore the magical mystery of the school. Possessing a very academic background, I started to look for my classroom---just as a normal graduate student would on the first day of classes. There was none. Yes, there are no classrooms, because every corner of Taliesin is a classroom! Learning is achieved by experience. The concept of "learning by doing" is so foreign to me that it sparked my interest. I have wanted to break away from the confines of a four-walled classroom, and take a more revolutionary way of learning. It is because my academic background has trained me well enough to be a good student that I now want to know the meaning of apprenticeship. The challenge is how to apply the theoretical knowledge in actual practice and learn from it. I realized that even a very mundane task such as scraping paint off the ceilings can become a source of information. It is during these times that I have the opportunity to view ceiling and roof connections that would be helpful in drawing details of these. It becomes much easier to draw something that is familiar just because one has seen it before.

There is so much to learn not only about the buildings in Taliesin but also the environment. It is amazing to realize that even the trees and sparrows relay knowledge and inspiration. The community setting supplements the learning process of apprentices. Activities are geared towards their relation to architecture. As a result, Taliesin-trained architects become equipped with a more well-rounded architectural sense. The place is a haven for artists desiring to have architecture as a means of expression. Never in my academic training have I experienced architecture in its purest intensity, the way Taliesin has let me. No other place educates the way Taliesin educates.

The knowledge I absorb is worth the thousands of kilometers I traveled to acquire it. I am being molded to become an architect armed not only with theoretical knowledge but also practical training. When the time comes for me to leave the place, I would know that every minute spent in Frank Lloyd Wright's "organic classroom" would remain with me. A part of me has become a part of Taliesin, and a part of Taliesin has become a part of me.

Mr. Wright may no longer be around physically, but his creative spirit is very much present today as it was during his lifetime. His contribution to architectural education by way of Taliesin will continue as long as nature continues to educate. Taliesin breaks away from the classroom just as Mr. Wright broke away from the box.
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