The sun is the great luminary of life. It should serve as such in the building of any house.

~ Frank Lloyd Wright ~


What began as a focus on this masterful American Architect and inside Taliesin West, is now a broader reflection for the 2nd instalment of the Solar Sunday series.


Bust of Frank Lloyd Wright at Tailesin West



Passive Solar features are integral to good home design; things like proper window layout, roof overhangs, and natural ventilation provide adequate light, heat, or coolness. Compare this to Active Solar, where panels are attached to roofs or walls, often in retrofits of existing buildings. 

Passive solar design offers major economic and eco-logic savings for new construction. Little extra materials are required, only wise design and planning. At this stage, it’s only one step further to add Active Solar panels. This literally empowers buildings and families to produce more energy than they consume, becoming mini power plants and providing extra income. Ah, the possibilities…


Taliesin West Sculpture


A great inspiration and influence for modern home design and architecture has been the Wright school of thought. Tragically, many key elements have been lost. Drive into any modern subdivision to witness a total disregard towards solar orientation.

Wright  wrote in 1954 that “the best way to light a house is God’s way – the natural way… Proper orientation of the house, then, is the first condition…  Surveyors do not seem to have learned that the south is the comforter of life, the south side of the house the living side.”

Here is a point of clarification – in the Southern hemisphere solar orientation is to the north, not the south. When I  facilitated solar cooking workshops in Oaxaca Mexico, I was surprised to learn this. Even below the Tropic of Cancer at noon in April, the sun was slightly north in the sky – I only happened to notice it when the reflector of the south facing solar oven began shading the glass, because the sun was slightly to the north. So much for my solar expertise.  I digress…




A Statue at Taliesin West



Construction of Taliesin West near Phoenix Arizona started in 1937, at the close of the great depression. It became the winter headquarters for Frank Lloyd Wright and his architectural  fellowship. He and and his apprentices built it basically by hand over many years, using locally available materials. It’s unique passive features illustrate practical ecologic design.

In his book, The Natural House, Wright said that “organic architecture must come from the ground up into the light by gradual growth. It will itself be the ground of a better way of life; it is not only the beautifier of the building; it is, as a circumstance in itself, becoming the blessing of it’s occupants.”

We, as a society, are still reticent to embrace this common sense today.


Taliesin West - Frank Lloyd School of Architecture

Massive stone walls act as a thermal sink, absorbing excess heat during the day and then coolness at night. Breezeways direct air movement to create natural ventilation. Clerestory lighting has large overhangs to block the sunlight and still allow natural illumination. 


Taliesin West and Frank Lloyd Wright

Freedom is from within, Frank Lloyd Wright observed. 



Taliesin West

The large shallow pool pool was created not as a luxury, but for fire protection.



Taliesin West - detail of rock & concrete walls

Taliesin West utilized indigenous desert rock and sand. Special re-useable formworks were created to hold in place the large boulders, hence the minimal use of concrete which was expensive and energy intensive.




Statues at Taliesin West 

American author and social thinker, Jeremy Rifkin, heads up a non profit organization called The Foundation for Economic Trends. He has been an advisor to the European Union, especially in terms of sustainability issues like green energy. He writes about  Frank Lloyd Wright and consciousness shift, in this excerpt from The Empathic Civilization;


In his book The Culture of Time and Space, historian Stephen Kern explores the changes in a temporal and spatial orientation that altered human perception between 1880 and the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914… The introduction of the new technologies of the 2nd industrial revolution – the telegraph, the telephone, cinema, automobile, and airplane to name a few – “established the material foundation for this new reorientation of consciousness…”

In architecture, the stuffy Victorian sensibility, with its walled off spaces tucked away from the outside world, gave way to the new architecture of openness and transparency…  Glass was used  to open up interiors and create the boundless space between inside and outside… The new architecture knocked down walls, opened up spaces to daylight, and even exposed internal structures.

Frank Lloyd Wright best expressed this new sensibility…  the goal of creating a seamless integration of interior and exterior worlds… the inside becoming the outside…


Taliesin West - Sunspace


100 years after this paradigm shift bout space and time, the big question Jeremy Rifkin now asks us this: “Can we reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary collapse?”


Inside the Garden Room - Taliesin West 


photo credit (below) – Gobeirne  & Wikimedia Commons

TaliesinWest - photo from Wikimedia Commons was taken by Greg Obeirne

“The space within is the great reality of the building” Wright said, and this is true of the garden room.     


 An amazing statue at Taliesin West










                          Statue, mother and childen -Taliesin West - by Bruce Witzel














                           Statue of Lao Tzu at Taliesin West


In Wrights book, The Natural House, he further reflects; “We have, now coming clear, an ideal the core of which must soon pervade the whole realm of creative (hu)man(ity), and one that I know now, dates back to Lao Tzu 500 B.C., and, later, to Jesus himself.” 


                                     Buddha holding Jesus - by Bruce Witzel



Faith in the natural is the faith we now need to grow up on in this coming age of our culturally confused, backward 20th century.


 Taliesin West - Scottsdale Arizona



Taliesin West - main studio


“The old academic order is bulging with its own important impotence. Society is cracking under the strain of a sterility education imposes far beyond capacity; exaggerated capitalism has left all this as academic heritage to its own youth. General cultural sterility. the cause of unrest of this uncreative moment that now stalls the world, might be saved and fructified by this ideal of an organic architecture, led from shallow troubled muddy water into deeper fresher pools into which youth may plunge to come out refreshed.”


Taliesin West - a deeper fresher pool

Today, Taliesin west is the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The buildings rest on 500 acres of preserved Sonoran desert open space, on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona.



“The democratization of energy has profound implications for how we orchestrate the entirety of human life in the coming century… What I’m suggesting to you is that this could be a renaissance. We may be on the cusp of a future which could provide a tremendous leap forward for humanity.”  ~ Jeremy Rifkin ~


These pictures of Taliesin West were taken by Francis and myself, except as noted.

Cheers ~ Bruce



  1. Passive solar really works and would be so easy to incorporate in most (if not all) construction. Our great room faces South; but because of a well-designed overhang, the sun does not shine in more than a few feet during the summer. However, in the winter, the sun lights up almost the entire room and warms it on cold mornings. Why wouldn’t every architect want to use simple principles like this to save on energy costs?

    • Hi Annette. I missed the comment you made in October about passive solar. The description you give on the overhang of your great room is much appreciated. I believe it should be part of the building code, that homes have to take into consideration solar orientation. Not ever building site has access to the sun, but many do. People may not like regulations, but often times laws are in place for the greater good. Good for you on embracing passive solar design. You are leading others by your example. Cheers – Bruce (through the luminary lens)

    • Hi Rev. Dele. Thank you for your comment way back in September, on my post that linked empathy with good design. It’s much in line with the work of permaculture.

      I enjoyed reading your posts on the climate march. Thanks especially for your work in linking ecology and care of the earth to Christian faith (indeed to all faith). Greening the church is such an important task. My friend Fr. Charles Brandt sent me a quote that sums this up…. here’s a blog-post that high-lights it


      By the way – my mother was brought up in the United Church. When she married my father she converted to Catholicism. I have always loved the United Church… in Canada where I live, they have been on the forefront of so many issues of justice and peace.

      Thanks for dropping by – I am somewhat on the fringes here, and really appreciate your inspiration….. In peace and love – Bruce W.

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    • Thank you for the thank you Brendan. I had been thinking about you a few hours earlier, wondering how you were… it is serendipitous and joyful to here from you.

      Peace, my good friend… Bruce

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    • Sunny days are precious indeed….

      From your recent post it sounds like the Washington mindfulness conference was well attended. Such a gift to have educators who are bringing this to the younger generations. Thanks for your dedication, David.

  5. Such a learning I’ve gained here this morning. Taliesin West is a place on my To Do List and your blog just slung it to the Number 1 position. Fascinating, every bit. Thank you for sharing.

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