Learning By Doing

Learning By Doing
Sackler Center for Arts Education
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
May 15 – August 23, 2009

Bill Shoettker


In conjunction with Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward, the inaugural exhibition in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the landmark building of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Sackler Center for Arts Education at the Guggenheim Museum presents Learning By Doing. This exhibition features a selection of models, drawings, and photographs of twenty shelters designed, built, and lived in over the past seven decades by students of Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Arizona and Wisconsin. It also includes a “case study” that documents the full design/construction process of one project from the initial design sketches, to the actual construction, completion, and experience of living in the shelter. Learning By Doing is organized by David van der Leer, Assistant Curator, Architecture and Design, and is on view from May 15-August 23, 2009.

Started more than seventy years ago, the Taliesin Shelter program began with students building simple canvas tents in the style of desert living as experienced by Wright in his Ocatillo Desert Camp (Chandler, Arizona, 1929). Wright and his Taliesin Fellowship decided to build their winter home, Taliesin West, in a valley outside Phoenix in 1937. The fellows initially lived in simple tents similar to those used by local shepherds, which were placed on eight-by-eight-foot wood or concrete bases. Over the years, refinements such as fireplaces, windows, and doors were added with the encouragement of Wright. Designing and building a personal shelter in the desert at Taliesin West or in the hills at Taliesin, Wisconsin is now one of the most significant educational opportunities at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture—one that is rarely offered at other architecture schools in the United States.

Students participating in the Taliesin Shelter Program are invited to design and build simple structures for sleeping and studying in the desert landscape of Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, or the pastoral landscape of Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The students are encouraged to experiment with materials, creative construction methods, and sponsorships to design and build shelters that are integrated into the landscape as per the teachings of Wright. The process of designing and building a shelter, either by modifying an existing structure or by creating an entirely new one, presents an opportunity for students to experience firsthand many of the issues involved in design, construction, and community responsibility. Learning By Doing inspires awareness of the architecture surrounding visitors in their daily lives, and illustrates how learning about space, materials, and details contributes significantly to the appreciation of our everyday environment. All models and drawings of the twenty shelters on view were made by students currently enrolled in the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Learning By Doing is organized by the Sackler Center for Arts Education at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in collaboration with the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Participatory Component
As part of the exhibition, the Sackler Center for Arts Education invites proposals for shelters from the public. In keeping with Frank Lloyd Wright’s interest in learning by doing, participants are invited to contribute concepts for a unique shelter. Selected submissions will be integrated into the exhibition which includes shelving for 2- and 3-dimensional proposals. These ideas become part of the exhibition on a rotating basis. To request guidelines and information on submitting proposals, please send an e-mail to education@guggenheim.org.

The Sackler Center for Arts Education at the Guggenheim Museum
Opened to the public in fall of 2001, the Sackler Center for Arts Education serves as a dynamic 21st-century education hub and learning laboratory that offers innovative public programs in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Exploration and experimentation with new technologies is the center’s hallmark, which broadens and enriches programs for youth, adults, and families. Artists as well as cultural and academic institutions are valued collaborative partners. An 8,200-square-foot education facility, the Sackler Center comprises Studio Art, Computer, and Multimedia Labs, the New Media Theater, an exhibition gallery, the Resource Center, the Conference Room, and education offices. It also includes the existing Peter B. Lewis Theater, part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original architectural design for the building.

Guggenheim Museum