The School of Architecture at Taliesin announces a bold new direction with a new interim school president, plans for a new location, and six new board members.

In March 2020, the school board voted to reverse its Jan. 25, 2020 vote to close the school and decided to stay open on both Scottsdale, Arizona and Spring Green, Wisconsin campuses. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which owns the land that the school is located on, decided to terminate the school’s lease as of July 31, 2020. After engaging in mediation with the foundation — initiated by the school board in an attempt to reach a mutually beneficial agreement — the school and foundation agreed to cut ties. 

The school has been offering summer programming remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is currently in the process of moving to the culturally and architecturally significant sites of Cosanti in Paradise Valley, Arizona and Arcosanti near Cordes Junction, Arizona, which were built by over 8,000 volunteers inspired by the arcology philosophy of the late theoretic architect Paolo Soleri (1919-2013) – a notable Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice in the late 1940s.

The School of Architecture at Taliesin and The Cosanti Foundation have joined forces on past projects, and this new venture expands on their continued collaboration. The school is currently working through approvals with state and institutional accreditors to move to the Cosanti and Arcosanti sites.

“We’re incredibly thankful for the support of our alumni, who championed the school through donations, new ideas and continued commitment to our unique place in the architecture world,” said Dan Schweiker, the school’s board president. “We see the school’s new location and leadership as an opportunity to reinvigorate our dedication to our entire community, including students, faculty, staff and alumni.” 

John Walsh, board chairman of The Cosanti Foundation, said: “It is fitting for our two institutions to work together to influence a new generation of architects, much as our founders influenced architectural innovation in their lifetimes. The Cosanti Foundation has always nurtured the interests of architects, designers, urban planners and scholars who have come to Arcosanti and Cosanti to study our experimental architecture and the unique philosophy of arcology at the heart of our mission.” 

Chris Lasch, an award-winning designer, has been serving as the school’s dean and became its interim president when former president Aaron Betsky was appointed director of the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech University in May. Lasch is also a partner at Aranda/Lasch, an experimental design studio whose work is featured in international galleries, including the The Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

“The school has a bright future and we look forward to working with The Cosanti Foundation at both of its sites – Cosanti and Arcosanti,” Lasch said. “I’m confident that through our collaboration we will continue to provide an exceptional educational experience that lives up to Frank Lloyd Wright’s revolutionary vision, and also draws inspiration from the innovative urban planning theories of his one-time apprentice, Paolo Soleri. Together, we will honor our shared past and continue to leave an important mark on the architecture world.” 

Lasch’s experience will be coupled with the addition of six new members to the board:

• Bing Hu, founder and the president, H&S International (Alumnus)

• Qingyun Ma, Former Dean, School of Architecture, University of Southern California; Member of Los Angeles Planning Commission; Xi’an Urban Planning Expert Consultant, Founder and Design Principal; MADA s.p.a.m.

• Chris Koch, Chief Executive Officer, Carlisle Companies Inc.

• John Sather, managing partner, Swaback Architects + Planners (Alumnus)

• James Benson, president and CEO, Benson Botsford LLC; and former president & CEO, John Hancock Life Insurance Co.

• Victor Sidy, former head of school and dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and managing principal, Victor Sidy Architect (Alumnus)

“The School of Architecture at Taliesin and the Fellowship have provided me with a unique, hands-on educational experience that solidified my passion for architecture and shaped my future in the architecture community,” said Hu, an esteemed architect and one of the school’s new board members. “I’m excited to pay it forward and taking on a new role in shaping the school’s bright future.” 

In the coming months, the school and The Cosanti Foundation will communicate additional details on their collaboration and the school will announce its new name.

In-person classes at the school are suspended due to COVID-19 and current students are working remotely. Plans to begin recruitment for its class of new Masters of Architecture students, who would begin in the program in January 2021, are underway. The school also anticipates hosting additional programs, such as its eight-week immersion program — an architectural discovery program for those interested in exploring the program or learning more about architecture, as an art and profession. 

“Education is at the heart of the work of The Cosanti Foundation. Through demonstrating a different way to live, we contribute to the broader dialogue on how cities of the future will be shaped. To be able to impart those ideas to tomorrow’s architects through this exciting development with the school strengthens our mission,” said Patrick McWhortor, President and CEO of The Cosanti Foundation. 

Kirkland & Ellis represented the School of Architecture at Taliesin and the board pro bono throughout its negotiations with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.