The Wright Stuff: Wright Virtual Visits Returns This Week with New Series of Weekly Tours

By Brian R. Hannan

Phase 2 of Wright Virtual Visits premieres at noon CDT today with a Facebook Live collaboration between Taliesin West and Unity Temple. Co-hosting the event are Unity Temple Restoration Foundation’s Heidi Ruehle and Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s Jeff Goodman, who will discuss Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of natural light in his architecture.

Phase 1 of the virtual visits project began at the end of April and continued through mid-July, growing from the dozen sites that initially signed on to participate to more than 20. Ruehle said her colleagues at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy were looking for an innovative way to continue their educational mission amid statewide travel restrictions and the global coronavirus pandemic.

“Since all the sites were experiencing shutdowns, we thought it would be important to keep the sites open – virtually, if nothing else – to keep interest going,” Ruehle said. “The whole world was thrown into this new, unusual way of living, and these visits were a nice break from all of the bad news. It has been a relief just to be able know that once a week you can tune in and get away for a few minutes through these experiential videos.”

While Ruehle describes the Phase 1 pairings as somewhat random – outside of the proof-of-concept pilot between Taliesin West and Unity Temple – she said the current series’ matches are more deliberate, with themes determined in advance. So far, 20 sites – including new additions such as Burnham Block in Milwaukee and the Pope-Leighey House in Mount Vernon, Va. – have volunteered to provide online tours.

When Monona Terrace Community Center and Hollyhock House present on Aug. 27, for example, they’ll discus Wright’s garden terraces and vistas. More information about Phase 2 visits and links to Phase 1 visits are available on the building conservancy's website.

For Ruehle, the project has been rewarding for myriad reasons – from the creativity and effort the various sites brought to the series to the opportunity to “think beyond the obvious” and highlight areas of Unity Temple that only parishioners experience.

“It was challenging to rethink how to show certain spaces in the building that you don’t typically focus on,” she said, noting a library and the temple’s kitchen. “It has been interesting to see the different approaches the sites have taken, from very casual walk-throughs to more scripted and produced efforts.”

Upcoming Wright Virtual Visits

  • Aug. 27: Monona Terrace (Madison) and Hollyhock House (Los Angeles). Theme: Garden terraces and vistas
  • Sept. 3: Gordon House (Silverton, Ore.) and Burnham Block (Milwaukee). Theme: Architecture for democracy

Ruehle is the executive director of Unity Temple Restoration Foundation.

Photo credits: Left: Unity Temple photo by James Caulfield; Right: Photo of the drafting studio at Taliesin West by Jill Richards

Published Aug. 20, 2020