Taliesin is situated among the hills and rocky outcroppings of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, and serves as a reminder of one of America’s most influential architects. In 1903, Frank Lloyd Wright completed construction on the Hillside Home School, consisting of an assembly hall, offices, a library, classrooms, and a gymnasium. The school was built with locally quarried stone with a variety of textures, glazing, and neutral colors. In 1911, Wright built the sprawling residential and studio complex of Taliesin, just north of the Hillside Home School. The school closed in 1915 and deteriorated over the next several years. In 1932, Wright rehabilitated Hillside for an architectural training program. The gym was converted into the Hillside Theater to host movies and performances for the public. In the late 1930s, the drafting school and dormitory were completed. The interior spaces of the complex, courtyards, terraces, and landscape continued to evolve under Wright’s vision until his death in 1959. Taliesin was Wright’s lifelong home, but also functioned as a laboratory of design and innovation for the architect and his students, and it is regarded as one of Wright’s most significant expressions of organic architecture in the Prairie style.
The low-lying structures of Taliesin seem in harmony with the rugged landscape, neither feature imposing upon the other. But the forces of nature, including exposure to the elements over time, have put the complex at risk. Taliesin was included on the 2010 Watch to draw attention to these issues, and now the Hillside Theater, the most public of the spaces at Taliesin, is suffering from water infiltration, perimeter drainage issues, a failing roof, and other problems with the building envelope. Due to the experimental nature of the design and materials used to construct Taliesin, the structures face special conservation challenges requiring extensive research and innovative solutions. Watch goals for this iconic site include additional research and restoration work, increased awareness of its architectural significance, enhanced protection and interpretation, greater community engagement, improved knowledge of the construction methodologies, and ultimately sustainable stewardship of Wright’s legacy.