The brick-red hued beams, the imaginative pathways and terraces, the buildings that seamlessly and ever-so-effortlessly merge nature and architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright’s work has not only had an impact on the Valley’s desert landscape and how we see it, but also on Valley residents’ lives.
“Wright’s work serves as a point of orientation, a point of departure and a beacon of hope for me,” said Margo Stipe, director and curator of collections for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “In the chaotic times we live in, his work resonates with those of us who believe — as he did — that beauty is a critical need for everyone and not an optional add-on — if you can afford it.”
To recognize Wright’s impact on Arizona architecture and celebrate his achievements, Scottsdale Public Art has teamed up with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the Arizona Heritage Center and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to present an exhibit called “Footprints on the Desert: Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona.”
Called one of the greatest American architects of all time by the American Institute of Architects, Wright designed more than 1,000 architectural works; 11 of his buildings also stand tall in the Valley.
“Wright has great importance to Scottsdale and the Valley’s built environment,” said Wendy Raisanen, curator of collections and exhibition for Scottsdale Public Art, Wright’s work. “He built his winter home and architecture school, Taliesin West, here in 1937. The architecture students who helped build it and learn from him went on to spread his influence through their future work.”
“Footprints on the Desert” will include Wright designs that were never built. Visitors will also find images and artifacts of Wright’s projects in Arizona, including David Wright House in Phoenix, the Harold C. Price House in Paradise Valley, and Taliesin West, Wright’s winter home, studio and school in Scottsdale.
Raisanen said she hopes the exhibition, created for the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth, will not only increase awareness of Wright’s architectural response to Arizona’s unique desert environment, but also welcome his work into their lives, as she did.
“Thoughtfully designed buildings can add so much beauty and quality to our lives,” she said. “I grew up in Scottsdale, and in the 1970s we, as a family, attended many concerts at the Wright-designed Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium in Tempe. It’s part of my life.”
An opening reception will be held on Sept. 21 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., where Vernon Swaback, founder of SWABACK and former Wright apprentice, will speak.
“In many ways, Scottsdale was fundamentally inspiring to Wright,” Swaback said. “I would hope that one of the takeaways is that for any of the attendees who have not yet visited Taliesin West will do so. It is a physical manifestation of Wright’s genius.”
Scottsdale Arts Education & Outreach also will offer four free, all-ages, hands-on workshops at the library throughout the exhibition’s run.
“This is a topic very dear to the people of Scottsdale, as evidenced by their support of the preserve,” said Mandy Carrico, Civic Center Library branch manager. “Residents are passionate about living in harmony with the Sonoran Desert, and this exploration of Wright’s work will educate visitors on those topics of interest and engage the community in further discussion.”
The exhibit runs through Dec. 31 at the Gallery @ the Library in the Scottsdale Civic Center. For more information about the exhibition and the workshops, visit scottsdalepublicart.org.
“Giving people beautiful, sustainable environments to live in was Wright’s goal,” Stipe said. “This is architecture that invites participation. When you are here, you know you are someplace.”