Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy to live on after School of Architecture closes

The famous architect's philosophies on sustainable design will continue to be preserved and celebrated.

Earlier this year, the School of Architecture at Taliesin, or SOAT, announced that it will close its doors after almost 88 years.

Previously known as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, the acclaimed institution was founded in 1932 by Wisconsin’s own Frank Lloyd Wright. For the last 88 years, it has been a temporary home for the world’s top architect students to further their studies and immerse themselves in Wright’s organic architecture forms for which he was so well known. The campus in Spring Green as well as the Taliesin West campus in Scottsdale, Arizona, will continue operation through the Spring 2020 semester but will officially close their doors by the end of June. (Editor’s Note: The semester might have been cut short due to the Coronavirus.) The decision to shut down the school’s programs on both campuses comes after the SOAT Governing Board was unable to reach an agreement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to keep the school operating.

“The closure of the school is very emotional for our students, our faculty and staff and all of us who worked so hard for this one-of-a-kind institution and its important role in Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy,” says Dan Schweiker, chairperson of the board of governors for SOAT, in a press release following the announcement. “We did everything possible to fight for its survival, but due to other forces it was not meant to be.”

The school might be closing its doors, but Taliesin Preservation Inc., an organization committed to carrying out the legacy of the famous architect, is making sure that the embodiment of Wright’s work stays alive in his celebrated Wisconsin home. The property in Spring Green (and Scottsdale) will remain open for tours, workshops, events and more, and visitors will still be able to experience the intersection of architecture, agriculture, nature and culture that Wright so strongly demonstrated in his work.

Connecting man to nature through the places we live and work was at the center of Wright’s philosophy. He developed his buildings to connect organically to their natural surroundings, emanating from the inside out. Although his notion of “organic architecture” is something not easily defined – Wright’s entire career shaped the idea – the term resonates with the idea of sustainable design, which is growing in both popularity and urgency. Simplicity was the backbone to Wright’s signature style. It fed principles like the free expression of natural materials and colors, and creating buildings that looked as if they were shaped by the landscape itself.

The distinct aesthetic is visible in the houses, churches, offices, hotels, museums and skyscrapers marked by Wright’s vision and noticed around the world. From his work on the Guggenheim Museum in New York to Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, Wright is recognized all over the country as one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. This recognition extended globally last year when eight Wright buildings, including both Taliesin locations, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list alongside sites like the Statue of Liberty and the Great Wall of China. For a more extensive list of Wright’s work, click here.

Hannah Twietmeyer is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

To read more stories from Madison Magazine’s Beyond Earth Day section, click here.