The folks behind the preservation of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin near Spring Green were ecstatic.
I had lunch with Ray Lipman, the chair of Taliesin Preservation Inc., and its executive director, Carrie Rodamaker, the day after the United Nations' cultural organization announced that Taliesin East and seven other Wright buildings have been included on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
They couldn't contain their excitement on what this can mean for the future of the famed architect's major works and, in particular, for the Wisconsin native's Taliesin.
It is, after all, a huge deal. It means that Taliesin is now on the same list as international treasures like the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian pyramids and the Statue of Liberty.
The UNESCO recognition surprised many. President Donald Trump, in one of his now famous piques, pulled the U.S. out of UNESCO in 2017, claiming the organization was biased against Israel and had challenged some of Israel's historical claims, which had particularly upset Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Ironically, the organization was co-founded by the U.S. after World War II to foster peace by protecting cultural sites, improving worldwide education for girls and defending international media freedom.
Because of Trump's decision, the U.S. no longer has a vote on the world body's educational, scientific and cultural decisions. But, even without U.S. participation, the UN organization, meeting last month in Azerbaijan, singled out Wright's work — the first time it has recognized American modern architecture.
Taliesin, which Wright began to serve as his home in 1911, has been called the "consummate example of organic connection to the landscape." It sits as a "shining brow" on the hills overlooking Wyoming Valley in northern Iowa County along the Wisconsin River. It was renamed Taliesin East in 1938 when Wright began construction of a Taliesin West near Scottsdale, Arizona.
Taliesin Preservation Inc. is a nonprofit formed by the state of Wisconsin in 1990 to preserve and restore the storied architectural gem and its 800 surrounding acres, which had fallen into disrepair for lack of maintenance funds. TPI, championed by former Gov. Tommy Thompson, was authorized to raise money, most of it from tours it devised that now draw up to 30,000 visitors each year.
Lipman and Rodamaker acknowledged that the international designation doesn't include money, but it surely raises the profile of Taliesin throughout the world — attracting more visitors and possibly encouraging international philanthropists to consider the treasure.
The seven other Wright works include the acclaimed Jacobs House on Toepfer Avenue here in Madison, which Wright designed as an affordable middle-class home for Capital Times reporter Herb Jacobs after World War II.
Taliesin West is also on the list, along with New York's Guggenheim Museum, Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois, the Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago, the Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, and the famed Fallingwater near Mill Run, Pennsylvania.
The Spring Green Taliesin is more than an architectural treasure. It was a training ground for young architects, an innovator of progressive schooling and a place for groundbreaking agriculture methods. Wright was a busy man throughout his life.
It's ironic that he was taken for granted by many in his home state, including here in Madison.
The world now underscores his genius.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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