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Rawling Family Donates Wright House to Architecture School
By Mike Saucier
It will go down as one of the greatest philanthropic acts in Phoenix history.
The Rawling family on Thursday donated the David & Gladys Wright House in the Arcadia section of Phoenix to the School of Architecture at Taliesin, which was founded by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The pledge of the iconic spiral home to the school represents the largest donation in the architectural institution’s 85 years. The announcement was made on the 150th birthday of Frank Lloyd Wright.
The donation by the Rawling family establishes a relationship that will further the school’s mission of educating students to build a more sustainable, open world while fulfilling the potential of the David & Gladys Wright House to have a perpetual life as a world-class center for design.
To celebrate, the famous home was decorated with 20,000 balloons that took 25 people 15 hours to arrange.
“It’s the school that will fill this place with life and meaning and connect the house to its history as part of the Wright family and the work that the Taliesin fellowship did to work with David Wright to build the house,” Zach Rawling, president of the David & Gladys Wright House Foundation, told Frontdoors. “It connects one of the masterwork buildings to experimental design and innovation and everything that the students are working on to build an open, sustainable, beautiful future.”
“This is a connection between the Wright legacy of architecture and bringing to life those ideas that are very much vital and relevant and informed,” he said. “This one site tells the story of midcentury America and the promise and the appeal of the American Southwest.”
Rawling said he and his mother started the project to share the house with people. She had introduced him to the house in second grade, while on bicycle.
“It was my introduction to architecture and the start of a lifelong love of architecture,” Rawling said. “Her idea was to allow other children and families to have that same experience here and that’s exactly what the school of architecture intends to do. Graduate students will use it for their own education and they will be involved in welcoming the public to participate in this legacy of the historic Wright building and also be part of a community discussion about the future of life in the Southwest.”
In 1950, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a home for his son David and daughter-in-law Gladys on 10 acres in the middle of citrus groves at the base of Camelback Mountain. The design elevated the home in the form of a spiral rising from the desert floor, converting the treetops into the lawn and revealing 360° views of the mountains forming the valley. Wright titled the plans “How to Live in the Southwest.”
Completed in 1952, the residence remained a family home until 2008. After sitting vacant, the home was threatened with demolition by local developers in 2012 before the community stepped in to save what the City of Phoenix’s preservation office recognizes as the greatest building in Phoenix by the greatest architect in American history.