Since Frank Lloyd Wright began building Taliesin West– his winter home and school in the desert-, students have been living in canvas tents as an alternative dorm. It was direct study of nature and the land, both important elements of Wright’s organic architecture.
Today Taliesin’s Shelter Program has evolved and students can design and build more complicated structures (they’re given a $1000 stipend and encouraged to raise more), but the small shelters continue to be off-grid, unplumbed and often without walls. This direct contact with the desert helps students confront just what is needed to provide shelter. “To me an architect is a man who,” wrote Wright in his autobiography, “knows the secrets of nature and studies them, is informed by them and comes out stronger with knowledge.”
Stephanie Schull, director of academic affairs at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, gave us a tour of a few of the 60 odd shelters (Note: We appreciate her giving us an impromptu tour and want to make clear that the opinions she gave during the interview were her opinions and not part of any school philosophy).