By Meredith Pratt | Staff Writer
Combatting the restrictions that come with online instruction, Baylor interior design professor Elise King brought the works of Frank Lloyd Wright to her students’ homes by compiling footage from actual architectural sites.
In years past, King has conducted her lessons on Wright outdoors. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak which sent Baylor students home for the remainder of the semester, she decided to bring the architecture to her students in a new way.
King reached out to several representatives of Wright buildings through email and social media, and requested they send short videos about their particular works that could be sent to students.
“I didn’t have much time, and the quickest and most effective way to create a more personalized learning experience seemed to be reaching out to the sites directly,” King said. “I thought that it could reduce some of the barriers of distance learning and it created an opportunity.”
To King’s delight, she began receiving footage from several buildings. Taliesin, Wright’s 800-acre estate in Spring Green, Wisconsin sent a series of videos covering various decades of the architect’s 70-year career.
A video from Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo, New York, offered a detailed look at the making of Wright’s signature barrel chair. Another video came from Kentuck Knob in the woods of Chalk Hill, Pennsylvania which allowed students to see the small, hexagonal house.
“I was thrilled and very appreciative,” King said. “After the past few weeks of online classes, I know how long it can take to create even short videos. You have to put in a lot of time behind the scenes, before and after recording the actual video. Some of the houses have had to reduce staff as well, so for them to devote time and energy to helping our students, it really meant a lot.”
Caroline Hamblen, director of programs at Taliesin, said she was happy to assist King in her effort to bring Wright’s works to her students.
“It is a great pleasure to be able to bring a snapshot of Taliesin during this time of uncertainty to Baylor students,” Hamblen said. “It is humbling to know that we can assist in bringing this site — in a virtual way — to others who also are sheltering in place across the nation.”
Jay Wilcox, a postbaccalaureate interior design student at Baylor, said she was so fascinated by the virtual tours that she watched the videos multiple times.
“They walked you through the land and interiors of the home. You saw collections of Wright’s shells and corals,” Wilcox said. “You just don’t get that kind of experience from an inside lecture. I watched it one day and took notes, and then I actually went through it again the next day. You wanted to go back, watch it again and absorb some more.”
King’s determination in producing a one-of-a-kind lesson was fueled by her admiration for Wright. The architect has personal significance to King and his work has guided her academic career. Her dog, Lloyd, is even named after him.
“As an undergrad at Baylor I became interested in his work,” King said. “During my junior year I wrote letters to Wright buildings around the country and asked if I could work there over the summer.”
King went on to accept an internship at Fallingwater, a house situated over a waterfall in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, designed by Wright in 1935.
“Wright is the reason I went to grad school for architectural history… and my research today continues to focus on Wright,” King said. “Now I work with faculty in computer science to interpret his work, and the work of other architects, using a floor plan recognition and analysis tool that we’re developing.”
King said she will be incorporating the videos she received from Wright sites in her future lessons and that she“loved the connection it created.”
“Even during this period of social distancing, we were bringing people together from around the country, working on a shared project,” King said.