Taliesin: At home with Frank Lloyd Wright (pictures)

He may have designed more-famous homes, but Frank Lloyd Wright's own house in Wisconsin is a showcase for his mastery of design in architecture. CNET's Daniel Terdiman stopped by on Road Trip 2013.


Daniel Terdiman

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Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin

SPRING GREEN, Wis. -- Frank Lloyd Wright may have been America's most famous architect, and the list of his masterpieces could go on nearly forever: Fallingwater, the Guggenheim in New York, the Robie House, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, and on and on. But for Wright himself, the most important building he ever created may well have been the main hillside house at Taliesin, his lovely 600-acre estate outside his childhood town of Spring Green.

Though he spent his early career living in Oak Park, Ill., and later established a home and architecture school at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz., his Wisconsin homestead was still close to his heart. And when Wright died, at 91, his body was returned to Taliesin.

Though a masterpiece in its own right, Taliesin may nevertheless be most famous as the home where Wright's mistress was murdered, along with six others, in 1914 in a fire set by a servant.

As part of Road Trip 2013, CNET's Daniel Terdiman took a behind-the-scenes tour of Taliesin, bookending the tour he took on Road Trip 2007 of Taliesin West.

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Taliesin fom outside

Wright lived in Oak Park, Ill., where he had set up his architectural firm. But when he fell in love with Mamah Borthwick, the wife of a client, he moved -- along with his mistress -- to Spring Green. He built the main house on the Taliesin estate -- which means "shining brow" in Welsh -- for Borthwick, completing it in 1911.

Though the house was first completed that year, it has been evolving ever since, in part because Wright had to contend with two major fires, but also because even after his death, Taliesin has continued to evolve as a showpiece of architecture and of the famous architect himself.

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Cantilevered walkway

The main house at Taliesin is full of trademark Wright touches, like this long walkway that sticks out off the side of the house.
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View of walkway

A view of the walkway that allowed those inside to walk well out away from the building and into what would appear to be wide open space, despite the walkway resting on a stone pillar below.
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Into the garden

A look at the main house's garden courtyard from underneath an entry passageway.
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Courtyard with fountain

The main house features a small courtyard, garden, and fountain just below a set of stairs that lead to the rolling hills and fields of the Taliesin estate to the south.
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House from above

The main house at Taliesin was built to blend into the landscape, as so many of Wright's buildings were.
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A signature Frank Lloyd Wright lamp inside the main house.
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Living room

One of Wright's most exquisite rooms is the living room in the main house at Taliesin, a room that is at once vast and intimate. What's not evident to the naked eye is that Wright expanded the room at the point of the pillar on the far wall after a fire. Originally the pillar was where the wall was.
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Living room view

One of the most elegant elements of the living room is the wide open view of the peaceful and stunningly beautiful local landscape, hills, and valleys. Taliesin was built in the middle of a large, untouched area of nature, and Wright wanted everyone who visited -- or lived there -- to be able to enjoy that nature from the house's main living space.
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A look back at the main house across the courtyard and its gardens.
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House built into the hill

Wright fans may at first think that the living room is cantilevered over the hillside, which almost seems to disappear as it drops below the house. But in fact, Wright built the house into the side of the hill, cleverly using the shape of the landscape to serve his architectural and engineering purposes.
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Wright's bedroom

A look at Wright's bedroom.
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Mrs. Wright's hearth

After Mamah Borthwick died in the 1914 fire, Wright married twice more, finally taking Olga Ivanovna Lazovich as his wife. Her tastes were different than those of Wright, as her bedroom shows. Where Wright's style was complex and layered -- as evidenced by the masonry on the room's back wall, her aesthetic tended to more simple style, as the hearth in her bedroom shows.
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Although Wright died in Phoenix, Ariz., he was buried in the small cemetery on the Taliesin grounds, along with other family members. This is his grave.
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Wright headstone

Rather than a headstone, Wright's grave is marked by a piece of metalwork reminiscent of the geometric design style familiar to those who know his art glass windows.
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Romeo & Juliet Tower

This is the Romeo & Juliet tower on the Taliesin estate. It was the first structure that Wright ever designed. Built in 1896 for his aunts Jane and Nell Lloyd Jones, it was only supposed to last for 25 years. Instead, it stood until 1990, when it was significantly rebuilt.
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Architecture school

As at Wright's Arizona home Taliesin West, he maintained an architecture school at Taliesin in Wisconsin. To this day, students study at the school.

Correction (Sunday, 4:48 p.m. PT): This caption originally misstated the school's accreditation status, as well as how Frank Lloyd Wright's work is built into the curriculum.

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Long hallway

As in so many of Wright's buildings, the main house at Taliesin features a long, narrow hallway that opens into a large room at the end.
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Entry area

The entry way into the main house at Taliesin.
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Inside the arbor

A walkway through an arbor near the main house at Taliesin.
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Steps up from the courtyard

At the edge of the garden outside the main house, a set of steps go up and meet the edge of the rolling hills of the 600-acre Taliesin estate.
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Rolling hills

A look at the estate's beautiful rolling hills and valley.

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