Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Mark Peterman Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Today, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture announced that it met its fundraising goal of raising more than $2 million by this year's end in an effort to become financially independent of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. More than 317 individuals, foundations, and corporations donated to the campaign, which launched last December, the school's dean Aaron Betsky (who is also an ARCHITECT contributor) said in a press release issued today by the foundation.

The school, which consists of Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wis., is seeking to become an independent subsidiary of the foundation, which current runs it. Bylaw changes established by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in 2012 required the school to file for independent incorporation as an institution with the primary purpose of offering higher education.

The main house at Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Jan Messersmith/Flickr via Creative Commons license The main house at Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Now that the school has raised more than $2 million to prove its financial independence, the foundation will work with the school board and staff to send an application comprising drafts of legal and incorporation documents to the HLC, which is expected to review the application in June. If the HLC approves the application, the foundation will file documents with federal and state agencies to establish the school as an autonomous, independently incorporated subsidiary of the foundation, a process expected to be complete by early 2017.

“We have been hard at work with the foundation’s staff and board to ensure the school’s future not just in financial and organizational terms, but also by improving its curriculum and by developing programs that continue Wright’s legacy in organic architecture and learning by doing in ways that answer to our needs for a more sustainable, open, and beautiful human-made environment," Betsky said in the press release. Some of those programs include community-based projects in Wisconsin and Arizona, and an expansion of the students' assignment to design, build, and inhabit desert shelters. It will also include new courses in design, theory, and digital fabrication, as well as a lecture series featuring renowned architects and designers such as Frank Gehry, FAIA; Zaha Hadid, Hon. FAIA; Liz Diller; Ricardo Scofidio, AIA; Thom Mayne, FAIA; Julie Eizenberg, FAIA; Tod Williams, FAIA; and Billie Tsien, AIA.


The foundation will continue to support the school through 2019, donating more than $1.4 million for operating costs and future growth, as well as the use of historic, residential, and classroom facilities at Taliesin and Taliesin West. Some of those facilities may be renovated or removed, as outlined in Taliesin West's preservation master plan, developed by Gunny Harboe, FAIA, principal of Chicago-based Harboe Architects. The plan divides the 80,000-square-foot site into four zones, based on level of architectural significance, and provides recommendations for restoring each zone to Wright's original vision and intent. Because FLW was constantly building, undoing, and redoing construction at Taliesin West, one of Harboe’s greatest challenges was determining to what era should different areas throughout the site be restored. With the school's future uncertain at the time of its development, the master plan left some room for flexibility, by allowing for buildings in the fourth zone to be addressed based on Taliesin West's future programmatic needs.

Read about Harboe Architects' master plan to save Taliesin West here.