Dezeen Magazine

Shutting the School of Architecture at Taliesin is "an assault on Wright's legacy," says architect Ben Aranda

Architect Ben Aranda has described the closing of Frank Lloyd Wright's School of Architecture at Taliesin as a "tragedy" and demanded more information.

Aranda made the remarks in a lengthy comment on Dezeen's story that the school will shut in June after failing to come to a financial agreement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

"Frank Lloyd Wright must be rolling in his grave"

"It's a tragedy" Aranda wrote. "The foundation has removed the soul of Taliesin for selfish interests. They don't see the school (as an accredited MArch programme) as part of their mission of preserving Taliesin."

"A very sad day indeed for architectural education," he added. "Frank Lloyd Wright must be rolling in his grave at the news."

"The irony is that Taliesin was always an architecture school and the foundation was established to protect that tradition," Aranda continued. "Shutting down the school is an assault on Wright's legacy and also the possibility that Wright's idea of organic architecture will have a platform to be taught."

The architect runs his New York and Tucson-based design studio Aranda/Lasch with Chris Lasch, who was appointed Director of Academic Affairs of the school in 2016 and is currently the dean. Aranda told Dezeen that all opinions are his own.

"Shame on the foundation for wanting to keep their precious halls clear of the spontaneous, 'round the clock, and sometimes messy life of an architecture student'," he said.

"There is more to be told, and we should demand to hear more"

Aranda also questioned the financial reasoning of the school's closing in conversation with other commenters on the story.

"There is more to be told, and we should demand to hear more," Aranda said. "But it's not about the school's bottom line. In fact, the school was growing and attracting more students by the year. The story is likely one of control and the Foundation ultimately wanted complete control of the site."

"Even just a petition from the architectural community would let the governing board realise how precious the school is."

The school released a statement yesterday that its board was forced to make the "gut-wrenching decision" to close both of its campuses in Scottsdale, Arizona and Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Wright established the school 88 years ago

It said that it had failed to come to an agreement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which owns the school's campuses at Taliesin in Wisconsin and Taliesin West in Arizona.

Wright, who is celebrated as most of the most important architects from the 20th century, founded the school with his third wife Olgivanna in 1932. The campus is split between the architect's buildings at Taliesin West in Scottsdale and Taliesin in Wisconsin.

It was originally called the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and funded by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, but was renamed the School of Architecture at Taliesin in 2017, as part of its break from the parent organisation in 2017.

This split was due to an accreditation issue, which meant that it needed to become an independent entity to have its accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), one of the agencies that accredit US architecture schools, renewed.

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is "deeply saddened"

Following the news, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation released a statement that it was "deeply saddened" by the closure.

"What has always made the Taliesin campuses unique and special is that they were more than the historic sites; they were places where architecture and design were practiced and advanced," said the foundation.

"As we transition from hosting the School on our campuses to new programmes for professional education and engagement, we are committed to ensuring that the traditional of living and working communities will continue."

Dezeen also contacted school president Aaron Betsky, who is a regular Opinion writer, but he was unable to comment.

Others that have expressed remorse of the decision include architecture critic Blair Kamin, who described it as an "End of an era" on Twitter, and Olly Wainwright who posted that he was "Sad to hear this!", along with photos taken at the school.

"Remember visiting students camping out in the Arizona desert in shelters – which they had to design, make and live in as one of their first projects," Wainwright tweeted.

Photography is by Andrew Pielage.