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The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation responds to SoAT’s decision to keep the school open

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The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation responds to SoAT’s decision to keep the school open

Petroglyphs at Taliesin West. (Leonard Witzel/Flickr)

After the news broke last night that the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) had voted to reverse their decision to close the school, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation provided the following statement to AN:

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation learned through stories the School of Architecture’s lawyers had placed in the media of their change in plans to remain open based on its assessment that it has secured funding and a new path to increase enrollment. Despite having two representatives on their board, the Foundation has little information about these new income sources and programs, which remain to be vetted by the School’s accreditors, its lawyers, and its own finance committee. Questions also remain about the School’s leadership, in light of the departure of the current dean/president later this spring, and how that impacts the direction of a revised program.

The Foundation believes that the timing of this most recent proposal to the School’s board, the notion of which was communicated to them shortly before its January 25 decision to close, does not reflect the careful exercise of fiduciary oversight incumbent on the organization’s Governors. The School’s announcements and lack of planning for the consequences of its earlier decision have adversely affected the lives of its employees who were terminated, generated distraction for its students from their studies and future planning, upset its alumni community, and disrupted the Foundation’s own important work. The board has demonstrated more concern about seeking blame for its decision to close than creating a sustainable business model for itself.

Since the School’s initial announcement about its decision to close, the Foundation has heard from former apprentices, alumni, members of the profession and leaders of professional organizations, along with members of our community. This diverse group of stakeholders is hungry for impactful programs for training architects and design professionals in the evolving principles of organic architecture—rooted in Wright’s ideas, but applied to our present and future built environment. We have spoken with the leaders of several prominent M. Arch. programs about partnering with the Foundation to create accredited programs on the Foundation’s campuses. And we are proud that many of the ideas that we are discussing are based closely on the program of apprenticeship that was the hallmark of Wright’s Fellowship—and something absent from our campuses since Taliesin Associated Architects, the practice that was the framework of the school’s pedagogy, was closed in the mid-2000s. We will continue to advance these explorations while the School, an independent organization, is vetting its programs, and look forward to evaluating all available options to secure the future of training professionals at Taliesin and Taliesin West. Frank Lloyd Wright’s 88-year-legacy of architect training will continue at his two homes.

Because of the uncertainties around the School proposal, and the lack of any direct communication from the school itself, the Foundation will have no further response until the necessary evaluations by the accreditors, attorneys, and financial stewards of the School proposals are completed and brought directly to the Foundation for consideration towards the renewal of the expiring Memorandum of Understanding. However, it is imperative if the Foundation allows for the use of Taliesin and Taliesin West by any independent organization, that the work that will occur on these two campuses, each part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, reflect both financial soundness and professional programmatic content that can advance the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. We do not intend to debate or negotiate this matter in the press or in social media and plan no further statement at this time.

As always, Taliesin and Taliesin West remain open and thriving, welcoming record numbers of visitors from around the world to learn from Wright’s principles of organic architecture through the experience of his most personal designs.