Supporters of Taliesin West are putting safeguards in place to prevent future administrators from giving in to the temptation of redtile rooftops.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture School in north Scottsdale is nestled at the foot of the McDowell Mountains, and several homes already hug its perimeter.
Under current zoning, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation could sell the property to home developers without so much as a public hearing.
The foundation has begun the process to rezone the property as a “special campus” to give the school flexibility to build new facilities while also ensuring that no one makes changes outside the school’s master plan without involving the city and the public, said John Berry, a Scottsdale attorney representing Taliesin.
The special-campus designation would go one step further than a separate city effort currently under way. On Tuesday, the Scottsdale City Council will consider a proposal to place Taliesin West on the Scottsdale Historic Register.
With that designation, the city would have some legal standing to prevent inappropriate development, but it would only cover core buildings on the 10-acre property.
The school would be the third special-campus district in Scottsdale, joining the Cattletrack artist colony near downtown and the Scottsdale Mayo Clinic. The process is expected to take several months.
Once the special-campus zoning is in place, the school could move forward with its expansion plans.
Those plans include a visitors center, exhibition space for items in the Wright archives, a larger architecture studio for students, larger faculty facilities and residential space for visiting educators and artists.
Dean Victor Sidy said all of the capital improvements would be designed in Wright’s environmentally friendly style.
“We understand the importance of treading on the desert as lightly as possible,” he said.
But, “there are areas on the property we’d love to make better use of,” he added.
Wright built the school in the 1930s to promote and preserve his ideals of environmentally sustainable architecture. It also served as the late architect’s winter home.
Today, it is home to architects, students and members of the Wright fellowship, and a group of architects, artists and historians who worked with Wright.
It is now one of the top destinations for Valley residents and visitors to Scottsdale, said Rachel Pearson, corporate communications manager for the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Taliesin is an international treasure, and we’re fortunate it’s in Scottsdale,” Berry said. “It’s one of the crowning jewels of Scottsdale and it needs to be protected.”