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Lower Court Student Project Advances

December 7th, 2016

A new class of University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering students began their semester project at Taliesin in collaboration with Taliesin Preservation this fall. The students will be looking in more depth and detail at the Taliesin Lower Court Comprehensive Restoration Project advanced by a previous class last year.

Entrance to Taliesin Serves as Engineering College Capstone

In the last decades of his life, automobile aficionado Frank Lloyd Wright would drive a series of Cherokee Red sports cars through the entry gate of the Lower Court and park at its far end beneath his Office Terrace. This carport is adjacent to a guest wing that Wright named the Lovness Suite after a young Minnesota couple who commissioned two homes from him in the 1950’s and loved to stay at Taliesin. From there, Wright would ascend a cascading array of stone stairs and landings to the breezeway that opens to the Garden Court, residence, and studio.

Today, three important components of that entry sequence — the cantilevered concrete terrace structure of the court itself, the Lovness Suite, and the entry stair — require restoration, and comprise the Taliesin Lower Court Comprehensive Project. On January 19, with the beginning of the spring semester, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison Civil and Environmental Engineering students and faculty mentors took on the Lower Court as a new Senior Capstone Design project in a partnership between Taliesin Preservation, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering.

The Lower Court is a deeply cantilevered gravel parking terrace perched high on the north side of Taliesin hill where the slope drops steeply toward the Wisconsin River. The concrete structure of the terrace, which is a hybrid of Wright’s original cantilevered design and repairs made by Taliesin Associated Architects in the 1960’s, will be evaluated for foundation stabilization measures. A structural analysis and space-use plan will be conducted for the Lovness Suite to guide renovation plans. The entry stairs will also be evaluated for renovation, with care taken to document and deal with two distinctly different superimposed stair designs — the second built atop the first.

The students’ final deliverable is a report outlining the engineering challenges and proposed solutions, which will multiple engineering disciplines. Lower Court Comprehensive Restoration Project is in the preliminary design phase for Taliesin Preservation, and so the student work will help to further inform choices made on this project moving forward.