Between 1934-37 architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his Taliesin apprentices wrote columns printed in Wisconsin newspapers. Wisconsin River Valley Journal continued the tradition during my time at Taliesin. To read the columns of 1934-37, see “At Taliesin,” Newspaper Columns by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship. Southern Illinois University Press, 1992. Here’s my contribution as a Taliesin apprentice from the Philippines when I pursued my master’s degree from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Wisconsin River Valley Journal published it in their September/October 1997 Volume 5 Issue 2 that narrated my story shortly after I arrived at Taliesin:
A few months back, I decided to break away from a very typical architectural lifestyle. Being a practicing architect from the Philippines, I would go through the normal routines of the profession—designing, revising, designing, revising, and doing more designing and revising! I guess no matter what part of the globe an architect practices, these are inevitable aspects of the profession. The more I get involved with architecture, the more I want to comprehend its complex nature. With this yearning, I packed my bags, gathered my guts, and flew willfully to Taliesin to satisfy my thirst for architectural knowledge.
Although much of Taliesin was in deep slumber when I made my entry, I was greeted by the stunning Hillside studio. I could not believe that I was actually inside this picture perfect structure that I had only seen in pictures! I remember vividly that sleepless first night at the “shining brow”. I had mixed emotions. I was excited with what the next day would bring. At the same time, I was concerned with what I could make of it.
The very first morning, I decided to explore the magical mystery of the school. Possessing a very academic background, I started to look for my classroom—just as a normal graduate student would on the first day of classes. There was none. Yes, there are no classrooms, because every corner of Taliesin is a classroom! Learning is achieved by experience. The concept of “learning by doing” is so foreign to me that it sparked my interest. I have wanted to break away from the confines of a four-walled classroom, and take a more revolutionary way of learning. It is because my academic background has trained me well enough to be a good student that I now want to know the meaning of apprenticeship. The challenge is how to apply the theoretical knowledge in actual practice and learn from it. I realized that even a very mundane tast such as scraping paint off the ceilings can become a source of information. It is during these times that I have the opportunity to view ceiling and roof connections that would be helpful in drawing details of these. It becomes much easier to draw something that is familiar just because one has seen it before.
There is so much to learn not only about the buildings in Taliesin but also the environment. It is amazing to realize that even the trees and sparrows relay knowledge and inspiration. The community setting supplements the learning process of apprentices. Activities are geared towards their relation to architecture. As a result, Taliesin-trained architects become equipped with a more well-rounded architectural sense. The place is a haven for artists desiring to have architecture as a means of expression. Never in my academic training have I experienced architecture in its purest intensity, the way Taliesin has let me. No other place educates the way Taliesin educates.
The knowledge I absorb is worth the thousands of kilometers I traveled to acquire it. I am being molded to become an architect armed not only with theoretical knowledge but also practical training. When the time comes for me to leave the place, I would know that every minute spent in Frank Lloyd Wright’s “organic classroom” would remain with me. A part of me has become a part of Taliesin, and a part of Taliesin has become a part of me.
Mr. Wright may no longer be around physically, but his creative spirit is very much present today as it was during his lifetime. His contribution to architectural education by way of Taliesin will continue as long as nature continues to educate. Taliesin breaks away from the classroom just as Mr. Wright broke away from the box.