Hi, I'm Angi
Welcome to my corner of the internet! My passions include travel, photography, books, music, Japanese language and culture, Italian language and culture, and art.

Here at Abbott Lane you'll find my thoughts on these topics and much more. Thanks for stopping by to visit!

The Mullet of Architecture Tours: Taliesen + House on the Rock

Last weekend, a friend and I took a quick road trip up to Madison. It had been far too long since I'd been there - a place that I had such fond memories of - so it was nice to get back and see how things had changed.

Madison isn't huge, but it has tons to do and lots to love. The people are friendly, the food is good, and the beer is cheap. We rented an AirBnb in a fantastic neighborhood where it was easy to walk around and find just about anything you could want. We did a lot of wandering and exploring around our neighborhood and came across some wonderful shops, a jazz bar, and a coop grocery store.

Saturday we hit the Dane County Farmer's Market (the largest farmer's market in the nation!) which winds around the Capitol Building. Picked up cheese, flavored salts, and other sundries. We eventually made our way over to the Arboretum, which was lovely, and spent some time wandering their natural prairie. Then we found a brewery for lunch and got to sample some great beers. From there it was back to our rental to drop off our treats, then out again for more walking around the area.

And Sunday was the big day. I started calling it "The Mullet of Architecture Tours" because Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen was the business in the front, and House on the Rock was the party in the back. We kept wondering why, as we would tell locals our plans to visit both places in one day, they either got very excited or said something along the lines of "Well THAT'S ambitious!" We'd soon find out why.

The Driftless Region was STUNNING. Rolling hills, farmland, green everywhere you turned. I wish I'd had a day just to drive those roads and find little places here and there to stop and take photos. But since we had a timed tour at Taliesen, I didn't have time to stop. But that drive is burned into my memory. I would love to go back.

The Taliesen tour was fantastic, and our tour guide was a wealth of information. I hadn't realized that Frank Lloyd Wright had actually grown up in the area, so the home he built on these lands felt very autobiographical.

Another thing I didn't realize is that FLW's school of architecture is still in operation! It was cool to see the student spaces from so long ago, and realize that they're still being used.

After seeing the school, we were bussed over to the main home, which was a fascinating glimpse into the architect's life. The home was also the site of a lot of tragedy, including the murder of his wife and a fire that nearly brought the entire thing down. After his third wife made numerous change, the preservation group that has control of Taliesen is working to bring it back to the way Wright originally intended, using photographs to restore what was lost.

One of the cool things about Taliesen as a whole is that you could see Wright trying to work out various problems. It was like one big experimental lab where he could try new techniques before using them on commissioned work.

After two hours, we were pretty done. It was the perfect length to learn a lot without getting overwhelmed or too exhausted. And we had to save our energy, because we still had...House on the Rock.

I'm not sure how to describe HoTR, except to say that it's completely, utterly insane. Why someone would do this is...???  The House became a little more famous outside of the Midwest when Neil Gaiman used it as the meeting place of the gods in his book American Gods. After walking through the place, it totally made sense to my why he chose this particular place. It's kind of like an American version of Europe's castles - ostentatious, kitschy, terrifyingly ornate at every turn in a sort of pop culture way. It's the Americanization of castledom; it's what happens when a man with boatloads of money decides to build his own palace. Each area in the House is themed, and as you get deeper in, the collections get more and more outlandish and over the top.

Many of the displays were strange, elaborate room-sized music machines, where instruments were hooked up to robotic arms to make them look like they're actually playing. You could use one of the tokens you receive with your ticket to activate them. Not creepy at all...

I'm glad that I saw it, but...once is enough. The amount of sensory overload you experience inside is hard to explain to anyone who's never been there. Every room is packed to the gills with stuff. My advice to people who want to check it out? Stop after Section 2 (where the "world's largest carousel" resides), unless you're particularly interested in large circus dioramas, pipe organs, doll carousels, or fake legs with compartments to hide a gun.