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Kids Tackle the Future of Design and Architecture with Taliesin West

Budding photographers, artists and architects work on projects at this summer’s Camp Taliesin West, held on the grounds of Frank Lloyd Wright’s historic architectural campus in Scottsdale.

At Taliesin West, budding architects craft their perfect dwellings for Earth—and beyond.

Photography by Veronica Coronado, Steve Craft and Andrew Pielage

Lihi Gurari’s design of a mountain dream home includes a view deck with a fire pit and deep overhang for inclement weather. The proposal for a three-bedroom home might not be that remarkable, except for one fact—this budding architect is 11 years old.

Lihi’s one of about 100 kids who spent part of this summer working with foam core, X-Acto knives and glue guns as part of Camp Taliesin West, a program at the landmark Frank Lloyd Wright community in Scottsdale in which participants ages 7 to 16 explored topics such as art, photography, designing their dream homes and even building livable communities on Mars.

“The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation has a long history of K through 12 educational programs at Taliesin West,” says Abbie Wilson, the foundation’s education manager. “Last year, the camp was virtual, but we were able to offer this year’s in person. The students had tours of Taliesin West, learned about design and collaboration, and built models during their weeklong programs. We even snuck in some math and engineering.”

Andrew Pielage, a freelance photographer who has been teaching at the camps for 10 years, says the programs unleash the inner artist in the young participants. “The camp gets kids out from behind the screen,” he says.

Young photo students check out the even light in Taliesin West’s Pavilion theater.

“They experiment and use their hands for something besides swiping. They get to explore art in various forms.”

Here are just a few of the young talents who might be designing your Arcadia estate or space villa in a few short years.

Hannah Evans, 14

This wasn’t Hannah’s first residential design rodeo. The freshman from Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale attended two past camps. “I had heard of Frank Lloyd Wright before,” she explains, “but I had never been to Taliesin West until my first camp a few years go. I was awestruck by the buildings and how they blended into the environment.” This year during the “Design Your Dream Space” camp, she zeroed in on details and scale, building a 3D model showing shiplap siding, wood balustrades and encaustic cement tile flooring that she made using markers on foam core, printed paper patterns and fabric scraps for upholstery. Her proposed beach house is up on stilts to accommodate tidal flooding and features an open plan, but only has one bedroom and bathroom. “Sorry, this house is for just me,” she says, without remorse. And her future plans? “This camp taught me specifics about color theory and how important scale is. It solidified my desire to be an interior designer.”

Hannah Evans’ detailed beach house model was designed for one occupant.
Lihi Gurari, 11

The fifth grader from Pardes Jewish Day School in Scottsdale also attended the “Design Your Dream Space” camp and says she’s happiest when she’s building something, either via a game app on her phone or hands-on. “To build my dream home model at camp, I used foam core for the walls and roof, sticks for the railing and rocks to make the fire pit and pillows for the chairs,” she explains. “It turned out bigger than I expected.” Other than the building experience, Lihi also liked learning about Wright and exploring the campus filled with historic buildings, particularly the partially underground Cabaret Theater, which she found figuratively and literally “cool.” Though she’s not sure if her future plans include architecture, next summer she might try the photography session at camp, like her brother Noam did this year.

Lily Brauer (left) and Lihi Gurari collaborated on a sustainable Mars colony model during the summer camp.
Lily Brauer, 13

If you’re looking to escape the gravitational pull of Arizona in the future, Lily has you covered. The 13-year-old 7th grader from Chandler’s Lincoln Preparatory Academy attended the “Operation Mars” camp and built a model of a thoughtful space colony, along with her teammate, Lihi Gurari, who also completed the Mars program in addition to the dream space week. “I’ve always been interested in engineering and science,” Lily explains, “but it was also amazing to see the architecture at Taliesin.” For the model, Lily and Lihi sketched out plans for a four-domed Mars colony, then built a model out of foam core, wire, plastic bottles and Saran Wrap. “The main dome has room to grow crops, housing, a lab, school, doctor’s office and a gym for weight-bearing exercise because there’s no gravity on Mars,” Lily says. “The other domes are for the rocket ship, a water and ice plant, and an emergency shelter.” Lily’s grown-up plans, like a Mars space colonist, are up in the air. “I’d like to work for NASA, or maybe I’ll be an architect.”

Campers check out the light and shadows created by tensile shade structures outside of Taliesin West’s library building.

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