Through weeks of staff, student and community volunteer efforts, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation (Foundation) has unveiled a stunning new desert masonry gateway structure to signify Taliesin West’s main passageway. The project, made possible by a generous grant awarded to the Foundation from American Express, took several months of hard work and collaboration to complete. Now, as visitors from around the world enter or exit the property, they are given a clearer sense of direction. In addition, this new gateway will increase site security and provide better wayfinding for the over 110,000 guests that visit Taliesin West annually.
When creating the new gateway, volunteers experienced building like Wright’s apprentices once did, using desert masonry, a building technique that involves sourcing sand and stones from the surrounding desert, a method that was used to create Taliesin West. In addition to desert masonry, an older metal gate was repurposed and incorporated into the design of the new gate structure. Students from the School of Architecture at Taliesin contributed to the initial concept designs for the new gate.
“It was a pleasure to participate in the construction of the new entrance to Taliesin West,” volunteer Bill Orr said. “I have visited over 100 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and am always on the lookout for unique ways to experience them. This was a real hands-on way to experience and in a small way become part of Taliesin West. In addition, as a professional engineering geologist I enjoyed learning the ins and outs of the desert masonry construction method.”
In addition to staff, volunteer, and student involvement, 180 Degrees Design + Build, a local Phoenix firm who has worked with the Foundation on other projects in the past, acted as the general contractor for the project, coordinating and executing all work that needed to be completed.
On Monday, April 29, those who participated in the project will gather at the new gateway to celebrate the completion of the project. Remarks will be made by Stuart Graff, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation President & CEO, who also served as a volunteer for the project. A representative of American Express will also be present.
“It was a great experience to see how many volunteers came out to help us build the desert masonry walls,” Emily Butler, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Preservation Manager said. “Several people even drove in from out of state to be involved. I think that this speaks to the community spirit and legacy of learning by doing the Wright promoted at Taliesin West and Taliesin. You gain a deep connection to a place when you help to build it, which is what I hope all of the volunteers got out of the experience.”