A literal hothouse for design, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West (12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., 480/860-2700, www.franklloydwright.org , 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily), is the perfect synthesis of architecture and the desert.
Wright’s use of local sand, gravel, and stone (what he called “desert masonry”) creates the impression that the complex emerged out of the ground. He masterfully incorporated the environment by integrating indoor and outdoor spaces, diffusing harsh sunlight through canvas ceilings, and creating asymmetrical lines evocative of the surrounding mountains. The effect is simply stunning.
In 1927, Wright first came to Phoenix  from his Wisconsin home, Taliesin, to serve as a consultant on the Arizona Biltmore. The architect was so captivated by the desert landscape and light that in 1937 he used the money from his Falling Water commission to purchase 600 acres of land in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains.
Wright’s original “winter camp” evolved into a small cooperative community, where his architecture school apprentices helped with the building of Taliesin West and lived on-site in communal sleeping spaces. They were expected to study, help with chores, and even perform in Cabaret Theater and Music Pavilion, as Wright thought his students should be well-rounded individuals.
Some students chose to live in tents around the property, where they could experiment with their own designs and building techniques. This practice grew into a more formalized program of “apprentice shelters” that continues today, with older structures eventually being razed to make room for the designs of new students.
The insular community resembled a soap opera with its entangled affairs and desire to create a utopian society. In fact, the drama continues today, as members of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, some in their 70s and 80s, still live on the property, protecting the vision of “Mr. Wright.”
Today, the National Historic Landmark serves as the headquarters of the Wright foundation and its school of architecture. Guided tours, which vary throughout the year, are required to explore the property and range from a two-hour apprentice shelter tour to the Night Lights on the Desert.
The popular 90-minute Insights tour ($32) showcases Wright’s private living quarters and canvas-roofed office, where he designed many of his masterpieces, including the Guggenheim Museum and Tempe’s Gammage Auditorium .
Discounts are available for students, seniors, and large groups, as well as during the summer. Call ahead or visit the website for details.