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Master’s students, and occasionally
bachelor’s candidates, are expected to
apply those elements by working with
the professionals at Taliesin Architects.
Twenty-three-year-old bachelor’s
candidate Jahmai Ginden, for instance,
recently put together a presentation for
a $20 million sports complex. “It’s the
most pressure I’ve ever felt,” he recalled.
But the presentation went well, he said,
and afterwards he was asked to assist
on a residential design for a client in
Michigan.
“It seems silly to take a class and
then you [supposedly] know something,
because you could take classes forever
and never really have the experience,”
said Ginden. “But here, when they say,
‘We need you to fill out a roof plan,’ you
just do it.”
Twice a year, apprentices also present a “box project,” a
fully rendered architectural design, to the community. Both
the name and the tradition descend fromMr. Wright’s time,
when apprentices presented him a gift of an elaborate box that
contained their designs.
Perhaps most importantly, apprentices are expected to
participate fully in community life. That means not only
helping with maintenance and construction, but also taking
part in cultural events, such as the plays the community
produces twice a year.
“There’s more here than just the teaching of architecture,”
said Hammons, assistant to the dean. “There’s a transmission
of a way of living. And that is embraced in community.”
The North Central Association evaluation teamwas
enthusiastic about the school’s holistic approach to education.
But it also suggested that the school update its facilities and
develop a recruitment and long-range strategic plan. In the
past five years, average enrollment has dropped from 35
to 20, a problem the administration ascribes to increased
competition from other alternative architectural programs,
from a sense that Taliesin hasn’t kept up with changes in
modern architectural practices, and a notion among potential
students that Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture is an
historical anachronism.
The National Architectural Accrediting Board also
expressed concerns about the school’s physical resources,
as well as what it characterized as “a perception by the team
that insufficient time is given to the academic component
when compared to the other two endeavors (work in the
commercial architectural firm, and participation in the
community).”The NAAB report also encouraged the school
to address Western architectural traditions and specific
architectural standards and designs such as life-safety systems
and building-code compliance.
The school has developed a draftmaster plan that begins to
address these concerns; it will be considered by the Foundation
Board this month. Some steps already have been taken,
with the expansion of the computer laboratory the first of
numerous construction and renovation projects in the works.
After running a deficit at the end of 1999 and beginning of
2000, the architectural firm is once againmaking money. And
the school is discussing how to ensure adequate and diverse
enrollment (currently men outnumber women 17 to three)
while continuing to offer rolling admissions and graduations.
Update
Frank Lloyd Wright
School of Architecture
July 2007
I
n recent years, the Frank LloydWright School of Architecture
has been engaged in a struggle for its survival. Although there was
a hint of the troubles to come when
National CrossTalk
profiled
the school in 2001, its accreditation seemed reasonably secure. But
in 2005 the National Architectural Accrediting Board reduced the
school’s status to “on notice,” and the Higher Learning Commission, an
independent regional accrediting agency whose approval is necessary for
accreditation by the national board, warned the school that it could lose
its accreditation entirely.
The turmoil began in 2004 when a report became public saying
that the school’s two facilities—TaliesinWest and a sister campus
inWisconsin—needed $100 million for future development and
restoration work (an estimate that later skyrocketed to more than
$200 million). The Frank LloydWright Foundation, which operates
the school, determined to make leadership changes, and fired the
foundation’s CEO. Dean JohnWyatt resigned in protest, and most of the
faculty subsequently left. Enrollment dropped from 22 to five.
In June 2005 the Higher Learning Commission issued its harsh
assessment, questioning the school’s fulfillment of basic educational
values, such as “acquisition of a breadth of knowledge and skills and the
exercise of intellectual inquiry.”The commission also leveled criticism at
the school’s governance and expressed doubt about its financial stability.
Big changes were needed.
The foundation hired Victor Sidy to be the new dean in August
2005. Sidy, who had studied at the school for five years in the 1990s and
was well acquainted with its philosophy, said in an interview that he
was hired “to help rebuild the organization.” Sidy referred to the staff
resignations as “an event that
really showed that the Frank
LloydWright organization
was not healthy.”
“What I did withmy
teamwas to evaluate the
possibilities within the
organization, to find ways of
leveraging those possibilities
to achieve success,” Sidy
said. “We streamlined the
administration, we hired
faculty, and we increased
our enrollment. We clarified
our admissions standards,
developed strategic plans,
In June 2005 the
Higher Learning
Commission issued
a harsh assessment,
leveled criticism at the
school’s governance and
expressed doubt about
its financial stability.
There are still no
classes, credits or
grades at the school.
But in order to
satisfy accrediting
organizations, the
school has developed
a list of skills and
concepts that students
are expected to master.