Letter to the editor: A sad day for Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy

End of an Era

Letter to the editor: A sad day for Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy

Taliesin West (Christopher Michel/Flickr)

The following letter to the editor comes courtesy of Jacki Lynn and Dan Schweiker, who serve on the Governing Board of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. This letter is the second in a series AN will run in the following days from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit.

We want to set the record straight and offer facts and perspective to the heart-wrenching decision to close the School of Architecture at Taliesin. The decision to close the venerable school, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for organic and sustainable architecture, came only after our Governing Board exhausted all options in trying to craft an agreement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Unfortunately for Mr. Wright’s legacy, an agreement with the Foundation did not happen.

We approached the Foundation with a proposal to extend the Memorandum Of Understanding for an additional two years under its current terms while we explored options to enhance the school’s viability and still allow the Foundation to more fully utilize the school’s spaces. Our goal was to reach a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with the Foundation to keep the school open.

The Foundation presented our school with two options. One was to close the school when the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) expired this summer. The Foundation’s other option was to keep the School of Architecture at Taliesin open for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Foundation wanted the school to immediately terminate our accreditation under those terms. The Foundation also wanted the school to then help create a new non-accredited program to be run by the former.

We took those proposals to our full Governing Board for serious consideration. We soon realized that terminating accreditations for our graduate architecture programs would immediately result in the loss of current and prospective students. Those students need to be part of accredited programs to reach their degree objectives. The school would have also lost our financial donors with the announcement of the school’s closure; simply put, the school would not survive the 2020-2012 academic year under those dynamics.

Our Governing Board felt a duty to sadly wind down operations after this semester while the school was still financially solvent. The Governing Board’s independent members, which are all of our Governing Board members with the exception of the two Board Members from the Foundation, all voted unanimously to close the school after this summer. It was a sad and difficult decision but a necessary one considering the untenable options.

We also did not feel comfortable putting our staff, students and board members in the position of providing their expertise and deep wells of knowledge to help the Foundation establish a new non-accredited program.

Our Governing Board did present some new funding options to extend our operating agreement with the Foundation. Those plans included guaranteed funding from another program. The Foundation opted not to accept the funding options to keep the school operating. The School of Architecture at Taliesin (which was previously the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture) has been a critical part of Mr. Wright’s legacy for 88 years. Our school was dedicated to furthering Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for ‘organic architecture’ and better connecting design and our human experience to the natural world.

More than 1,200 architects and designers studied under Mr. Wright and at the school. We focused on designing more than buildings and boxes. Our school and our students focused on how to better live with the natural environment, including the Sonoran Desert here in Arizona. We focused on how to change the world. We and the Foundation are working together with Arizona State University so our current students can transfer credits to the Design School at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, as established in concept in 2014 when the School was operated as part of the Foundation.

Our Governing Board was deeply saddened to make this decision. We were left with no other options. The end result is a sorrowful day for architecture and for Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy.