A Tribute To Taliesin's 100 Years

As Taliesin celebrates 100 years since its construction, I look back at my own memories of what it was like when I first set foot at this historic landmark considered one of the best examples of Organic Architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright encouraged the apprentices at Taliesin to tap into creative writing way before blogging ever existed, as part of a multi-faceted architecture experience. This was yet another exercise of Frank Lloyd Wright's vision that was so ahead of his time. This article was one of the first pieces I wrote shortly after arriving at Taliesin in Spring Green. It is taken from the Wisconsin River Valley Journal, September/October 1997 Vol 5, Issue 2:
Between 1934-37 the Wisconsin architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his Taliesin apprentices wrote columns printed in Wisconsin newspapers. Wisconsin River Valley Journal continues the tradition. This issue's contribution is by Anna Lira V Luis, a Taliesin apprentice from the Philippines. She is pursuing her master's degree from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.             - Wisconsin River Valley Journal
More. To read the columns of 1934-37, see "At Taliesin," Newspaper Columns by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship. Southern Illinois University Press, 1992. - Wisconsin River Valley Journal

Taliesin Break Away

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 tast 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. 

About Taliesin

Taliesin is the home of the Taliesin Fellowship, a group of architects, artists, educators and architects-in-training continuing the work and learning program begun by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright at their home and school buildings near the Wisconsin River near Spring Green. The buildings and the 600-acre campus they are located on are known together as Taliesin. The name is Welsh and literally means "shining brow." - Wisconsin River Valley Journal
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The ‘Wright’ Tile to Make a Mark

When the folks at Tile of Spain told me to pack my bags for the “Reign in Spain” A&D Tour, a new a new CEU education program, to represent the U.S. Architecture and Design community, I was more than excited to learn about a new trends in tile. Ceramic, natural stone, and bathroom design are converging, provoking the A&D community to think about these elements as “much more, as a part of you,” perhaps like “your skin.” Let me digress…

>> Continue at TalkContract.com
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Pastry Puffing Out Architecture

During a recent screening of the documentary Kings of Pastry at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago's theater district, I had the pleasure of asking one of its leading characters, Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer from where his design sources come. He tells me he's a big fan of the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly, stating that he studied the processes and techniques of glass blowing, and incorporates them in some of his culinary sugar sculptures.

Kings of Pastry fell on my radar when I saw this image:
The expression on the chef's face reminded me a lot about architecture school when I had to build scaled models, trying to make sense of how to construct undulating forms out of bass wood. In this case, the chef uses chocolate as his medium. It made me think, constructing something out of foam core, bass wood, and paper was crazy enough, what is driving this chef to achieve something similar with a medium that has a potential to melt and carries an expiration date? So I watched the film:

The film centers around the process of becoming a M.O.F. (Un des Meilleurs Ouvrier de France) and chef Jacquy Pfeiffer's journey to become one. Getting those 3 letters meant becoming recognized as the best craftsman in France. Those who pass this competition, currently held every 4 years, are honored with a medal during a ceremony at the the Sorbonne and Élysée in the presence of the President of the French Republic.

I see  similarities in the process of becoming an architect, and in the USA, achieving the coveted 3 letters "A.I.A" (American Institute of Architects) at the end of your name.

Here are some parallels between the process of getting The "MOF" and The "AIA":

1. "If you wear those collars and you're not (a MOF) you can go to jail," says chef Sébastien Canonne, MOF. For architecture, the public can distinguish whether an architect is licensed or not, if they are members of the AIA. There are different membership categories. The most common are Architect Member and Associate Member. The Architect Member will usually use the letters "AIA" at the end of their names, signifying that they have passed the AREs and have been granted with an architectural license from a U.S. licensing authority. The Associate Member will usually have "Assoc. AIA" at the end of their names, and are not yet granted an architectural license. Similar to the MOF, if an architect uses "AIA" and one is not, that person is subject to civil or criminal liability.

2. Both require grueling processes to achieve. For the MOF, the chefs are subject to a 3 day test. For the Architect's License, one needs to take and pass 7 exams (it was 9 when I took it).

3. Both can be an emotional experience. As The UK Guardian has put it, "I never saw so many strong men sobbing at once," in reference to the MOF. The rigor of studying for the Architect Registration Exams can put a toll on the relationships of those who are taking it.

4. "There is no monetary reward for achieving the MOF title" says chef Pfeiffer. In architecture, there is also no monetary reward for becoming licensed and getting the AIA title. In fact, to maintain the title, the architect will need to pay for annual dues and license renewal fees.

5. I checked out the salaries for beginning chefs, the equivalent of intern architects and both are in the same ball park.

At the end of the day, it's really about what you are passionate about. There are so many opportunities to learn from various disciplines and apply those thought processes to whatever it is you're passionate about. For chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, he goes to museums a lot, studies about artists, uses inspiration from different art forms, and uses all these concepts and sources to improve his pastry craft. For architects, a similar cross-disciplinary mindset, where everything is a source of learning and design, can be a useful tool in paving the way for innovation.
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