Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture Has Another Chance to Stay Open

Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture Has Another Chance to Stay Open

By Duncan Nielsen
After an overwhelming show of student support, Taliesin’s board of directors has rescinded a vote to shutter the school—but to keep it open, they’ll need a plan.

On January 25, the Taliesin School of Architecture suddenly faced its end when the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation deemed it was financially unfeasible to continue the 88-year-old operation. The abrupt closure sent shockwaves through the school, spurring students to write letters to the school’s board and to set up a Change.org petition that’s now gathered more than 10,000 signatures.

Due to the outcry, Taliesin’s board of directors has rescinded its previous decision to close the facility—and the foundation has announced that it is willing to entertain a rebuttal. 

"The closure of the school is very emotional for our students, our faculty and staff, and all of us who worked so hard for this one-of-a-kind institution and its important role in Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy," said Dan Schweiker, chairperson of the school’s board of governors.

A statement issued issued by the foundation on Friday reaffirms the terms: "If [we] allow for the use of Taliesin and Taliesin West by any independent organization, it is imperative that the work that will occur on these two campuses reflect both financial soundness and professional programmatic content that can advance the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright."

The School of Architecture at Taliesin is hosted in facilities at Taliesin and Taliesin West, where architecture students live and work immersed in Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture.

The statement shows the foundation’s skepticism over the school’s income sources, "which remain to be vetted by the school’s accreditors, its lawyers, and its own finance committee," it says.

Aside from low enrollment numbers this past semester, the school’s dean, Aaron Betsky is perplexed over what isn’t financially sound about the school—or promising about its future. "We pay for every leaf of lettuce," he says. "And we have the largest class of incoming students in the history of the school."

Taliesin West is a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece that showcases locally sourced materials, rich red hues, and thoughtful indoor/outdoor connections.

The foundation is also concerned about whether the program will be able to course-correct in the wake of the departure of Betsky. Since joining the school in 2015, he has raised $2 million for its financial independence. This spring will be his final term at the school, which presents a significant question mark punctuating the pending closure.

As deliberations take place over the future of the school and the Taliesin estates, both the foundation and the school share an interest in proliferating the teachings of Frank Lloyd Wright. To do so side by side, the school’s plan must be deemed sound by the foundation. No progress has been announced since Friday’s statements.

Related Reading:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture Is Closing After 88 Years

"More Than Just a School": A Former Taliesin Student Explains What the Closure Really Means

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