Second and third semesters devoted to finding and developing projects
Although suffering from communication problems, funding uncertainties and questions of accreditation, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture project in Globe and Miami plans to move forward to help restore and beautify the area.
Despite the concerns expressed by some community members about the school’s intentions, Director of Development Jason Donofrio said students have already surpassed the school’s commitments for the first two semesters. The spring 2016 semester assignment for Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture Taliesin students in Globe and Miami was to observe, understand and research the local community. That semester ended in May. The students were then tasked with finding projects during the second and third semesters to develop designs.
“Not only have we already completed a requested design to remove the Miami Memorial Library’s drop ceilings, our students used it as a learning opportunity to redesign the library,” Donofrio said.
The school has hired several experts to work with students, including Chris Winters, a landscape designer, and Chris Lasch, who will oversee student interns from local high schools.
It was also asked by Freeport McMoRan to help design a community garden. “They said, ‘We have land and a small budget,’” Donofrio said. Taliesin students are working with FMI contractor Chris Jones, Miami High School and local Master Gardeners to complete the project by March 1.
Questions of Intent
If there was one lesson Donofrio learned over the last year of working with the Globe Miami community, it was that “feasibility is key.”
Miami Memorial Library Manager Delvan Hayward said she wasn’t aware of a formal request to the school regarding the ceilings. She had often thought the building would look extraordinary without drop ceilings but realized air conditioning and lighting would have to be dealt with. It was during one of the many library visits by the architecture students that she mentioned that she needed help.
“We enjoyed the visits from the students,” she said as she described how much fun she had talking to them as they measured and took pictures.
What the students delivered, according to Hayward, was a conceptualized design that was “way out there,” and the removal of the drop ceiling was only part of that design. The design included ramps, terraces, a removable front, basketball courts and a hefty price tag to get it all done.
Hayward said students also told her it wouldn’t be hard for them to help her remove the ceilings using local volunteers. “I thought we were on a path to getting something done,” she said. “The next thing, a student asked me about the budget. . . I had to laugh (because there was no budget).”
Donofrio said the school had only committed to figuring out how to remove the drop down, “then we started playing around.”
Over the summer, students also decided to work on an affordable housing concept using shipping containers, and the price tag attached to the concept raised a few local eyebrows. Donofrio said students worked on the project outside the studio, and it was not considered part of the curriculum. “We weren’t saying: This is the solution,” he said.
The school has received financial commitments from five local organizations, including one granting agency, and individuals that total almost $800,000. This was part of the $2 million in commitments raised in 2015 to prove to the Higher Learning Commission that the school was financially viable.
As of Dec. 7, Donofrio said the school had only received $20,000, although he said United Fund had committed to paying its first installment by the end of the month.
The United Fund Board confirmed that it plans to honor its commitment to the school and released the following statement:
“United Fund is pleased to support the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture’s Globe-Miami studio project and the promise it brings to our community. Successful mining communities are often showplaces of care, attention, history and heritage which made the opportunity to support the ideas and promise from this proposal worthwhile. We believe that something worth doing is worth doing right and will work closely with the school to ensure that this investment in the future is on target. United Fund of Globe-Miami Inc. stands behind its 2016 commitment and looks forward to the school’s successful HLC accreditation in February 2017.”
Some of the expenses included hotel stays, T-shirts and the paint for the Paint the Town project in Miami, which was not initially part of the plan. “We never said we were going to build stuff, paint stuff,” Donofrio said. “We are going to produce architectural design.”
As part of what some are calling the Taliesin Promise, Donofrio says he co-authored grants for the IDA that added up to $400,000 over the past year.
According to the Gila County Industrial Authority (IDA), Donofrio’s repeated use of the term, “co-authored” comes as a “shocking revelation”.
“If he is referring to the $400,000 Brownsfields grant which the IDA secured this fall,” says Fred Barcon of the IDA, “then his use of the word co-authored is absurd.” Barcon noted that Donofrio had nothing to do with the grant itself other than to supply a letter of support and went on to point out that a similar letter of support was supplied by over a half dozen agencies. “And none of them are claiming ‘co-authorship.”“Writing a federal grant of that magnitude requires hours upon hours of research and writing. Jason may have spent 15 minutes writing his letter of support. Where does he get the idea he can lay claim to co-authorship?” Barcon asks. “And if he’s thinking the FLLW name was responsible for securing the EPA grant, he’s wrong. We asked. The FLLW name had no bearing whatsoever.”
Hayward said Donofrio also offered to write a letter of support for the library. After reading aloud an email inquiring about the status of the support letter from the beginning of October, she said the library did not receive the letter until after the grant deadline had passed and the grant had been submitted.
On a more positive note, Globe City Manager Paul Jepson said the architecture school is the type of organization the city likes to partner with. “We are looking forward to a partnership, and we need to figure out just how the city can benefit from this partnership,” he said.
One of the first tasks that needs to be accomplished is a framework from which students can work and future renovations and construction can be based. Donofrio helped erect part of that framework when he helped the city prepare a job description for a code enforcement officer and helped choose the preliminary candidates.
The student designs for the opening of Broad Street, Sullivan Street and the community garden are in the final review by panel jurors.
1. Dura Parrish – MakeTime
2. Eddie Jones – Jones Studio
3. Maria Salenger – Jones Studio
4. Max Underwood – ASU
5. Susanna Dickinson – UA
6. Valerie Lane – UA
7. Beth Weinstein – UA
8. Jack DeBartolo – DeBartolo Architects
9. Wendell Burnette – Wendell Burnette Architects
10.Jason Donofrio – Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture
“The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture is grateful to our local donors and supporters, and, currently, we are working together to develop clear strategies that benefit the community and ways to communicate most effectively with local residents,” Donofrio said.
Question of Validity – Accreditation
A policy change in 2010 by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a Chicago-based nonprofit that accredits colleges and universities, has recently endangered the school’s ability to offer master of architecture degrees. The change in policy requires accredited institutions to operate separately from all sponsoring agencies, and in the case of the architectural school, this includes the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, according to an Aug. 21, 2014, article in USA Today.
The Higher Learning Commission denied the school’s application for Change of Control, Structure and Organization, a corporate legal move that would allow the school to have financial independence, on June 30, 2016. The reasons listed for the denial, according to a public disclosure notice released by HLC, follow:
- The school had not presented evidence that its governing board was “sufficiently autonomous” to make decisions in the best interest of the school;
- It does not have faculty and staff needed for high-quality programs and student services.
The Commission board required that the school submit a revised proposal, which will be considered at a February 2017 meeting.
Aaron Betsky, the school dean, said, “The HLC has accepted our additions to our application for Change of Control. We will hear from them in February whether they approve the Change of Control.”
Betsky said the school will continue to build the framework it began during its first year in the community while focusing on projects that effectively combine the talents and skills of the students with local needs.
“We look forward to the actual realization of small-scale, effective projects that we will develop and realize in collaboration with the community,” Betsky wrote to the Globe Miami Times. “. . . The whole point of this method is that we are working with Globe and Miami to discover what we can and should do rather than imposing ideas or forms from the outside.”
Aimee Staten has worn several hats over the last few years, but she recently put on one of her more familiar caps after four years of working in nonprofits: That of a journalist. She has 14 years of experience in the news business as a reporter with eight of those years as the managing editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier.
Additional information regarding the FLLW Project in Globe-Miami may be seen on our Documents Page