The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture has announced that Aaron Betsky has been named dean of Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, an experimental architecture school with a main campus at Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a summer campus at Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisc. An influential writer, theorist, educator, and curator, Betsky has most recently held the position of director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and has previously served as the director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam and curator of Architecture and Digital Projects at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Betsky also directed the 11th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2008. He will be co-directing the 2015 Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.
Assuming the role immediately, Betsky took time from his busy schedule to talk with Architizer about his new gig — and not just the part about living in the one of the most beautiful deserts in the United States.
Aaron Betsky. Photo via Archpaper
Architizer: What is going on at Taliesin these days, and what is your vision for the future of the school?
Aaron Betsky: Well, I'm not totally sure since I am not there yet, but the school has an experimental tradition that I think Frank Lloyd Wright's work and thinking embodies, this notion that architecture is a way of looking and seeing and knowing and understanding the human-made environment that we have all made, and how you can make yourself at home within it. Looking at questions such as: What is the Home? What are the ways we make communities, especially given the suburban nature of American Life? How do we use the landscape? How do we build with the landscape, rather than on it? How do we create an architecture that Frank Lloyd Wright would have called "democratic?" How can we learn by doing? How can we make an architecture that is open? How can we make an architecture that is expressive of its own construction in a manner we can understand and be part of the making of a place?
These are all issues that are inherent in any school that would build on the tradition of Taliesin, so I'm hoping to take these themes and strengthen them as part of the curriculum. I think the school could be the best school of experimental architecture in the world.
Do you have an plans for the shelters that the students build? Is that something that will continue, and if so, how?
AB: Yeah, I think it certainly will continue. It is a wonderful way for students to "learn by doing." It's important to remember that Wright's thinking came out of the Arts and Crafts tradition and the tradition of American pragmatism, both of which he was closely aligned with during his career. I think there is still a great deal of relevance in that; in terms of the shelters and these types of constructions. I'm looking forward to having the students continue to build where they live.
Architizer: What kinds of experiences have you had that will inform how you will continue the traditions of Frank Lloyd Wright?
AB: I think I have a broad view of architecture as part of our visual and social culture. I hope to be able to bring that broad, but also critical perspective to this academic environment, but I hope to use more than three decades of teaching experience to give direction to the students and faculty there. I'm not sure I can separate out which parts of my experience exactly work into that.
Architizer: What are you most looking forward to as you transition into the role?
AB: Well, its such a great place, and figuring out how to work with these incredible environments, and learn from them and use them to develop notions of experimental architecture.