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Wisconsin Exhibit to Honor Frank Lloyd Wright

July 10, 1988|FRANK RILEY | Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section

MADISON, Wis. — Controversial architect Frank Lloyd Wright is about to be honored on the University of Wisconsin campus by an exhibition expected to draw visitors from around the world.

Wright was born near Madison in the village of Richland Center on June 8, 1867. Before his death in Arizona in 1959 at age 92, Wright spent eight decades creating architectural masterpieces ranging from lake cottages and boat houses to futuristic private homes, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the old Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

For generations of Southern Californians, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin West near Scottsdale, Ariz., has been a highlight of winter travel along the Sun Circuit.

Roots of Genius

But much of his life was focused close to his Taliesin East home and School of Architecture in Spring Green near Madison. This area showcases the roots and scope of his creative genius.

For several years the Elvehjem (pronounced L-V-M) Museum at University of Wisconsin has been researching Wright's lifework to bring into full perspective 32 Frank Lloyd Wright architectural treasures, created in and around Madison from 1893 into the late 1930s.

Now the largest-ever exhibition capsuling the creativity of his career is in final preparation for display at the museum from Sept. 2 to Nov. 6.

The exhibit is entitled "Frank Lloyd Wright and Madison: Eight Decades of Artistic and Social Interaction." Many original drawings never before shown to public will be on display. It is planned as an exhibit to increase worldwide awareness and understanding of his nearly 500 architectural landmarks, as well as all of the designs that continue to be created by student architects and their instructors, from May to October at Taliesin East and during the winter at Taliesin West.

His Life and Work

Our visit to the museum to preview preparations for the exhibit has shown us how Wright's life and work connect the capital city of Madison, the town of Spring Green and Taliesin East, separated by only 40 miles.

The drive of less than an hour from the university campus to Spring Green can lead to a four-seasons resort, as well as to the Wright home and architectural fellowship.

We joined a guided tour through the Hillside Home School at Taliesin East, where student apprentice architects from many nations are at work on their drafting boards, creating concepts in homes and public buildings while guided by Wright's vision of organic architecture that melds a design into its natural surroundings.

Taliesin means "shining brow" in Welsh, the language of Wright's ancestors. His father was a preacher, a music composer and teacher. His mother was an educator, and her Welsh family acquired considerable property after immigrating; 600 acres of this property are the grounds of Taliesin East.

Progressive School

After his studies at the University of Wisconsin and apprenticeship years in Chicago, Wright created an American architectural style and received worldwide recognition by the time he returned to build his Taliesin home in 1911. He had previously built the Hillside Home School on that property for two of his aunts, who operated one of the nation's first progressive co-ed boarding schools. In 1932, Wright and his third wife, Olgivanna, transformed Hillside into what is now the Wisconsin campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Created of native oak and sandstone on a wooded slope, the Hillside Home School takes visitors into its drafting studio, living and dining areas and a small theater.

Here a visitor can observe the way 35 student apprentices work with 35 faculty architects. The same students and faculty move to the Taliesin West winter campus.

Lovers' Windmill

The Wright home is close to the Hillside school and is open for special occasions. His Romeo and Juliet Windmill rises through the trees above Taliesin and the valley, through which the Wisconsin River flows. The waterfall he created splashes and churns near the home and school.

The Taliesin East property has been designated a National Historic Landmark, as has Taliesin West, which the Wrights founded in 1937 on 600 acres along the southerly slope of Arizona's McDowell Range.

The resort is centered two miles from the Wright Foundation property around the Wisconsin River, the village of Spring Green and its sheltering hills.

Spring Green restaurant, opened in 1967, is the only restaurant Frank Lloyd Wright designed. The beamed interior of the dining area complements the vistas of the valley. Specialties include Lake Superior whitefish, chicken Christopher stuffed with crab meat and veal a la maison.

Despite the drought in the Midwest, the Wisconsin River still ripples through the valley between wide sandy beaches. We watched canoeists and sunbathers in the summer sunshine. Canoe and fishing boat rentals are available.

Challenging Golf Course

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