You just cannot mention Scottsdale, Arizona without mentioning Frank Lloyd Wright. The Taliesin West school in Scottsdale is a masterpiece of his own design and a landmark attraction of the architecture community. The high cost of ticket prices has always kept me from checking it out for myself, but thanks to the new Culture Pass program I finally got my chance.
The Culture Pass program was unveiled on April 1st, 2009, and it's definitely no joke. The way it works is that you go to any Phoenix Public Library and check out a pass for one of 13 attractions. The pass allows free entry to the attraction (up to four adults), and you have seven days to use it from the check out date. I checked my Taliesin West Culture Pass out from the Agave Library the third week of July and used it that same weekend.
Taliesin West is located in Northeast Scottsdale at Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd. and Cactus Rd, right at the base of the McDowell Mountains. The winding driveway leads you through a healthy mix of desert plants including trees, shrubs, and cactus as you approach the parking lot. From there, signs direct you towards the Gift Shop where the tours begin.
Although Taliesin West has a variety of tours available, the Culture Pass is only valid for the 60-minute Panorama Tour. When I presented the pass, I was given the option to upgrade to the 90-minute tour for an additional $5 dollars. It's a good deal, but the high temperature for the day was 114*F and I figured sixty minutes of trekking through the summer heat was all I could stand.
To be fair, the tour guide did offer water bottles to anyone who wanted them. I had brought my own half-gallon jug of water, which got plenty of attention from the rest of the tour group. Between that and the camera bag, I was weighed down like a pack mule!
The tour begins in Wright's office, which has no air conditioning. We learn some insight about life at Taliesin West during the 1920s, when Scottsdale was not even visible from the front steps and that Wright and his team never spent the summer in Arizona.
After that, the tour group headed outside and we gathered in the shade of a Palo Verde tree to learn about the pool and how it doubled as an emergency water source in case of fire. We visited the conference room with its recessed electric lighting, and the theatre with its plush red interior.
By now, the tour group and I were absolutely drenched in sweat. We walked past the main drawing room with its massive windows towards the Lounge. It was surprisingly cool inside as we walked down the long entrance ramp towards the seating area. The lounge building is partially underground which helps to stabilize the temperature inside. The excellent acoustics are the main feature of the lounge, which our tour guide demonstrated.
The tour ends back at the gift shop, in case you did not finish browsing the vast collection of architecture books before the tour started. All in all, I really enjoyed my tour of Taliesin West. If you're into FLW or architecture in general, I'd highly recommend it. Just wait until it's nice and cool out to go visit!
UPDATE: The Culture Pass is no longer valid for Taliesin West tours as of 2010.