Frank Lloyd Wright vs. Zombies

So on our first day in Wisconsin, we took a field trip out to Taliesin, the estate where Frank Lloyd Wright lived for the last 40-odd years of his life. I’ve been meaning to for the five years I’ve gone to Wiscon. We went with Janine and Doselle Young, another sf power couple, braving the cows and silos to reach this modern masterpiece of design.

photo by Doselle Young

Historically speaking, there is no “true Taliesin” to preserve. The main house was constantly rebuilt by Wright and his acolytes, becoming sort of a sort of living laboratory of architecture. But you can feel his ego everywhere, the low ceilings pushing you to sit down when he wants you to, the views perfectly callibrated when you’re in the right chair, facing the right way. The house lets you know who’s still in charge: the dead architect.

Speaking of death . . . like all great architecture, Taliesin has great stories. The house was leveled twice during Wright’s lifetime, once by lightning and once by arson, his third wife burnt alive–along with kids and houseguests–by an enraged gardener. Whoa.

And it just gets weirder. In 1985, more than 25 years after his death, Wright’s body was snatched from the nearby cemetary. You see, his fourth and final wife wanted him exhumed and cremated upon her death, their ashes scattered together. But his family was a bit more old-school than that, and were like, “Uh, no.” But shortly after the wife’s death her supporters went on a midnight raid and dug Wright up. And the ashes got scattered together.

Which brings me to zombies. I wish I could say it was all the tour guide’s talk of murder and grave-robbing, but actually, I’m kind of immature about world heritage sights. Whenever I visit them, I think about where I want to live if there’s a world-depopulating plague. In a Wright house? The Battersea Power Station? Or maybe the Taj Mahal . . . because I’m not really into canned food or solitude, so the only really cool thing about global depopulation is all the freed-up architectural masterpieces.

But then my mind turns to other Last Man Alive issues, like, say, zombie apocalypse. So Doselle and I were standing there in Wright’s incredible house, cogitating on defensive issues. Of course, it does make the architecture come alive, worrying about hordes of zombies attacking.

So here’s our quick analysis, entitled, “Taliesin in Zombie Apocalypse: Fortress or Deathtrap?”

1. Views in all directions to spot approaching zombie hordes, especially from the Romeo and Juliet Windmill Tower located on the estate.
2. Solid sandstone construction, not likely to be torn to pieces by undead hands.
3. Frank Lloyd Wright chairs never let you get “too comfortable.”
4. No major population centers nearby, just farmland. See map.
5. Organic melding of architecture and landscape allows for interlocking fields of fire.
6. Shop in vistors’ center can be looted for tasteful gifts.

1. Lots of windows to be boarded up.
2. Rough exterior walls can be easily climbed by zombie horde.
3. No last-stand “suicide” basement.
4. Surrounding open spaces allow 28 Days-style “fast” zombies to get a big head of steam up.
5. Bring your own guns a must.

So, yes, a masterpiece, and highly recommended for a day trip if you like cool design. But in case of zombie apocalypse, I would stick to the mall until those 28 days (or whatever) are over.

57 thoughts on “Frank Lloyd Wright vs. Zombies

  1. Huh. I didn’t notice you guys talking about zombies . . . Maybe I was too distracted contemplating Frank Lloyd Wright’s complete and utter insanity. He sounded scarier than any zombie.

  2. What with the various fire and cremains shenanigans, I’d be far more worried about enraged ghosts than zombies. Bringing small arms to a haunted house is worse than useless– there’s too high a chance someone weak-willed will be possessed long enough to shoot themselves or someone else.

    Lighting a fire, of course, would draw the ghosts like flies. Ergo, if you MUST take refuge in Taliesin as the result of zombie attack, be sure to dress warmly. Try to trap the zombies inside the house and then put the torch to it again. (Which will have the side effect of reducing the number of standing Wright houses by one. Whether that counts as a plus or a minus is something I’ll leave it to you to decide.)

  3. I hadn’t realized Taliesin was reachable from Wiscon. (Scribbles note to self for next year — we’ve been to Taliesin West so might as well complete the set.) I must say I never quite realized that amazing upside to global depopulation. Though there’s an interesting fantasy novel where The Winchester Mystery House gets taken over that way.

    Hmm. Green & Green cottages in Berkely? I DID like Taliesin West…


  4. Fallingwater would be more defensible, so long as the zombies were considerate enough to attack from downhill; you could just blow up the bridge. Any surviving Pennsyltucky farmers holed up with you would be heavily armed, and it would be easy to fire from those open-corner windows.

    If they attack from uphill, though, they have all those open terraces to crawl onto, and you’d be pretty much screwed.

  5. True, Fallingwater does have great fields of fire. And not so many ground-level windows as Taliesin.

    I share your concerns about any uphill attack, and would want those stairs down to the river to be retractable. But imagine if you had a set of kayaks and crash helmets to make a dramatic escape down the river in case of a zombie overrun scenario.

    As far as hauntings go, I think that Wright’s ghost is being held in perpetual torment by the spirits of all those overworked apprentices.

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  7. It’s all very well talking about the building, but defensive architecture has always been driven by the effective weapons of the time.

    So what stops a zombie? Machineguns? They work best firing from close to ground level, which has disadvantages if the zombies get too close. Flame-throwers? If you have a long-range view (which looks to be a problem with Fallingwater) a mortar and a good supply of white phosphorus may be a good option.

    And why zombies? You get tooled up to deal with them, and then the werewolves turn up.

  8. We’re talking a civilization-ending zombie apacolypse, ala George Romero. Not the zombies of vodun, etc. These zombies are generally created by a space-borne virus, military research gone awry, or when hell gets too full. One zombie arises, kills more people, who then becomes zombies. Thus, the undead population expands in geometric proportions, and human numbers fall proportionately.

    Romero-style zombies are generally stopped by destroying the brain, or disconnecting the brain from the body. High explosives are not as effective as against normal humans, since bleeding and shock don’t stop them. (They’re already dead.)

    Machine guns are probably the most useful weapon, baring major military ordanance like white phosphorous, which just eliminates the problem by leaving nothing but singed footprints.

    Agreed about Fallingwater. Too many trees obstruct both visibility and field of fire. Taliesin’s open fields make it the sort of place I’d feel most comfortable in. (Especially when the panicky, soon-to-snap white guy we rescued from the roof of a gas station is on guard duty.)

    And why zombies? You get tooled up to deal with them, and then the werewolves turn up.

    A fine point. But I’ve never heard of lycanthropy spreading at apocalyptic rates, and without major depopulation of the world, you simply don’t get to live in Taliesin. A werewolf mutation resulting in cataclysmic global lycanthropy would be interesting scenario, though.

    But suffice it to say, if there’s a zombie apocalypse going on, you’ll know that’s what’s going on. (And it would seem rather bad luck to have a subsequent explosion in the werewolf population, and be facing that threat as well.)

    Of course, all possibilties are welcome. The most important thing is to have these debates now, so we know which cultural landmarks to run for when the dying starts.

  9. A werewolf mutation resulting in cataclysmic global lycanthropy would be interesting scenario, though.

    Indeed. For example, does the transformation occur only on those two or three nights a month that the moon is full?

    If so, then during the rest of the month you have everyone in the world playing a slow-motion version of Mafia, trying to identify the werewolves hidden among the humans. Is there a blood test than can identify the mutation? If so, you’re playing a version of Thing. Depending on their loyalties, the werewolves might acutally work toward a cure while they’re in human form. In some ways the daytime situation is more interesting than the nighttime one, in which you’re “merely” fighting off packs of wolves.

  10. Sorry, but if defensibility against rampaging zombies is an architectural priority after the Great Depopulation, I figure Edinburgh Castle wins hands-down. (The only time it was taken in 700 year, it was because the attackers poisoned the well.)

    Oh, and it’s still an active army base with an armoury and guns and stuff for fending off zombies. Just saying …

  11. Charlie Stross makes a good case for Edinburgh Castle, but neglects to point out that for many reading this board, that would involve a journey by sea–always problematic in post-zombie infestation environments, not least because of the unknown effect of zombie virii on higher functioning marine mammals. While it’s well known that canids, for example, are immune (and indeed, they’re effectively invisible to zombies) the prospect of ravenous undead porpoises leaping onto our hastily provisioned luxury yacht just moments after the firefight at Cape Ann is not a pleasant one. Plus, none of us know much about boats.

    Perhaps UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites might be a good place to start when considering post-zombie abodes. Unfortunately for Gwenda and me, the nearest one to Lexington is Mammoth Cave National Park, and I’m sure living in an underground cave system pocked with an unknowable number of entrances and populated by bats, blind fish and ancient Native remains would make for a better anecdote than experience.

    Hey Westerblog readers, what World Heritage Site do you live near? How would the zombies eventually get to you if you holed up there?

  12. Unfortunately, the closest thing to a World Heritage Site close to me is Mount Auburn Cemetery, which exactly the place _not_ to hole-up…except maybe later, when the zombies have dispersed—I’d say “it’s the last place they’d think” of except that it’s not clear whether they can think much above the level of shaving and saluting. Cycling by on the way home, though, I’ve occasionally thought, “In the event of zombie attack, we’re big trouble.” We’re going on a nature-walk there tomorrow….

    It would also matter which diet they follow: the balanced one backed by the Romero Institute, or the brains-only régime proposed by the O’Bannon Institute. It would also matter what they had been in life: I might accept becoming part of a zombie pirate krew, but never a Nazi zombie, especially not an underwater one.

  13. mesa verde is probably the closest World Heritage site to me, if we’re avoiding caves. Great field of fire, poor supplies, and we’d undoubtedly be attacked by ancient Indian spirits.

  14. Edinburgh Castle looks good, is not terribly comfortable. The only problem is going to be that the army guys are already going to be in there, holding out. And why would they let your possibly infected self in? To share their rations? (And if they’re not there, they’ve been overrun. Which means the place is a zombie-fest.)

    The problem with US World Heritage sites is that most of them are natural wonders, not ideal for setting up shop. Although, the closest one to our NYC house is the Statue of Liberty. Not very comfortable, but if you can jack a ferry, you’d be pretty secure out there. Zombies don’t swim.

    But me, I’m headed for the Guggenheim. The spiral ramp allows for some serious zombie-skeet as they climb with their slow shuffling gate. Or maybe you could roll bowling balls down at them or something.

  15. Or maybe you could roll bowling balls down at them or something.

    Indeed, I think there is a storage attic at the top of the Guggenheim filled with bowling balls.

  16. “…another SF power couple…”??? How totally and transparently vain a statement. Sad.

  17. Yes, because the appellation “sf power couple” is one of the most sought-after in history. (Up there with “internet vanity monitor.”)

  18. Waves hand in the air. Can I please, please, please, please be an sf power couple also! I promise I will use my powers only for good.

    Does it matter that I’m single?

  19. Thank god you’ve come, Ironyqueen! We were suffering a brief but terrible shortage of irony-detection around here.

    Does it matter that I’m single?

    I’m sure you have enough sf power(TM) for two.

  20. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t “civilization-ending zombie apocalypse” sort of imply that previously-called dibs are no longer honored?

  21. Ted is merely thinking unsentimentally, Chris. Though I agree with Gwenda’s observation above about the adaptability of Ted’s comments to T-shirt slogans:

    Civilization-ending zombie apocalypse? All best are off, suckas!

    More clear-headed, really, than my own bumper sticker:

    My other car is civilization-ending-zombie-apocalypse-proof.

    I think all of us need to remember one thing regarding CEZA’s: once one gets rolling, most of the people reading and posting here will be, you know, dead. (Or undead.)

    In other important zombie news, the trailer for George Romero’s LAND OF THE DEAD is available now. The master returns to the genre he created.

  22. Did anyone notice Google today? (6/8/05) For Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday, the Google logo incorporates Fallingwater, the Guggenheim, and a few other structures that I am too much a Philistine to recognize.

    No teeny marauding zombies are visible, but I think they are implied.

  23. Closest site to me is Independence Hall in Philly…
    I’m thinkin’ I’m a goner if the zombie horde comes…

  24. Well, now I what I have to do to take the Shoreacres estate on the Oregon coast… now, where did I leave that jar of zombie spittle?

  25. It’s about a 7 hour drive, but would the Salt Flats count as a heritage site?

    Assuming the old “zombies and salt don’t mix” ideology, it sounds like a bunch of fun to sit back a comfortable distance from the edge in an “acquired” motor home crammed with weaponry, canned foods and water while watching the ensuing mayhem. Well worth the drive.

  26. Good thing FLW is cremated, he can’t come back as a zombie to attack his own Teliesan.

    If you want fields of fire…the SOLAR HEMICYCLO.

  27. All in all, the best zombie defence I have ever seen is the Dawn of the Dead ‘ hide-at-the-local-mall-method’. It provides cloths, a sporting center (baseball bats, knives, possibly guns), food and, most importantly, security like alarms and gates. If mall security can repell seriously irate football fans, it can absolutely withstand the undead hordes.
    But, I have to question Taliesan’s ability to defend against a vampire attack. The numerous large windows offer a quick and easy way in to slaughter Taliesan’s residents. Although surrounding woods offer an unlumited supply of potential ammunition.

  28. Since I’m in Michigan, I think Macinac Island would be a great zombie refuge, especially during the winter. Northern MI is sparsely populated, so the journey there wouldn’t be bad, especially since I’m driving a Hummer H1 repossessed from a zombie victim.

    Macinac Island is not a popular winter vacation spot, being very close to the U.P. The only way onto the island is via ferry or the Macinac Bridge, the last section of which would be promptly grenaded after blingin’ across it in my Hummer loaded with munitions (taken from desert local residences; everyone has a gun collection here). There’s no motor vehicles on the island, so my Hummer would quickly dispatch the few remaining zombie Grand Hotel waitstaff and the occasional zombie horse!

    The rest of my time would then be spent luring zombies from the mainland onto the remainder of the Macinac Bridge, after I install natural gas pipes under the perforated metal road for a mile-long zombie roast. Who says Michigan isn’t great…

  29. OMG… I’m still trying to figure out how this went from Frank Lloyd Wright’s house to zombies.

    Hello?!?! Zombies don’t exist (well with the exception of my wife when she wakes up in to mourning) and I can’t believe you guys are actually discussing them. lol ;p

  30. I think that we overlook some important local sites a lot. Here in K-zoo, Kalamazoo Central High School would be an ideal spot. Sadly enough, it’s built like a fortress and has lots of narrow tall windows to strafe from. Also the Federal Center in Battle Creek would be great if you could get into it, but that may be wishful thinking in leu of the described C.E.Z.A., as those federal guys would probably blast anything that moved. The Guard base is close by too. All in all, I think that travel to a UNESCO or any other site would be arduous at best. You would need to take MASSIVE amounts guns and ammunition, not to mention food. I would, however, also enjoy the idea of a free pickup or Hummer for transport. Better yet, break out the 18 wheeler and make it a long haul affair while mowing em down!

  31. SteveK is full of it. I am from northern Michigan. I don’t want zombies all over the place. Hell put them in Flint, they will fit in there just as well.

    The mackinac bridge does NOT go to the island. And yes, the island is a great winter spot to visit by snowmobiling over the frozen lake.

    Plus who says Zombies can’t swim. The trailer for Land of the Dead sure makes it seem that way and hollywood did their research before making the movie! 🙂

  32. OK I’m an ass for overlooking the fact that the bridge doesn’t go to the island. But my approach will work even better since the bridge goes to the UP. I think anyone hiding there will be safe from a zombie invasion by default anyway since only like 100 people inhabit the whole place. A deer/squirrel zombie outbreak would be another matter.

    Once the zombies get to Flint and realize Autoworld isn’t there any more and most of the cushy GM jobs are gone they’ll probably head north and eventually to the UP, where I will be waiting with my fire trap on the bridge.

  33. ROFL. Imagine a bunch of zombie squirrel. Freaking crazy ass little bastards. Some of them can fly, so now we could have land/air/sea zombie creatures everywhere. What to go Romero!

  34. I can beleive what I’m reading… LMAO!

    SteveK, we all know your a pyro… I can just imagine you sitting there *drooling* at the prospect turning the Mac bridge into a fire trap.

    XTFreak, you may want to watch what you say about “shooting through school windows” or you might have those crazy Fed guys knocking on your door for real. :O… ;p

    By the way, XT sucks, the 7800 is gonna kick azz!! LOL! 😀

  35. I think we should hole up in a brewery. If you have to die/change, might as well do it smashed! Plus, Coors is way up the side of the rockies, so more security.

  36. XTFreak: Haven’t you seen Shaun of the Dead? I don’t think holing up in a brewery would work a whole lot better than holing up in a pub!

    At home my nearest World Heritage site is the Sydney Opera House. Be pretty cool being up on the sails mowing zombies down, but not so good on the food and shelter front.

  37. XTFreak: if that is your perfered survival method, check out the British movie “Shaun of the Dead.” It mirrors your apocolypse phillosophy.

    RyanF: I happen to have Family up Flint way, all of which would be annoyed -though supplied and capable of dealing- with a zombie invasion.

  38. Anyone in the UP or the Thumb would be well capable of defeating half the Cuban army; they scare me sometimes…… I spent 5 years in the UP for college…….

    I have seen Shaun of the Dead. My fiancee hated it, but I thought it was pretty good for a cheesy zombie movie. The fact that it was british was even better. Just seems like we might as well get plowed while wasting zombies, then we can set the place on fire while rolling the keg out the back door! FLW would be proud (or not….)!

    Zombie squirrels = not good.

  39. XTFreak is correct. I am assuming he spent time at Tech like myself. (Hopefully not Northern)Believe me, those people wouldn’t think twice about Zombie, just blow em away and eat a pasty.

  40. Here’s another thought: Can Zombies climb very well? Can’t say I ever remember seeing it in any movies…..

    I was envisioning any mans dream: the world’s biggest tree fort! Multiple trap doors to drop rocks and shoot from would make it the perfect place for a stand.

    Unless there are zombie squirrels involved; then we are screwed……

    RyanF: LSSU, actually. Where the men are men, and so are the women. Even the pretty ones pack a hell of a punch!

  41. LSSU, spent many a weekend partying there, but nothing like a Tech party.

    Steve couldn’t handle the a tree fort I don’t think, he wants in on the action at ground level. He can guard the base of the tree, the damn zombies might try to bring it down. But hell if there is a possibility of zombie squirrells then there will be zombie beavers and the tree fort becomes a grave. Damn Zombies are a cagy bunch.

    I would fathom to guess maybe the best defense is just total offense against them. Don’t let them gather the living in any area capable of being surrounded. Hell, they’re slow and easily rounded up.

    Maybe a zombie outbreak is just another way of nature dealing with the human race’s grossly out of balance population (similar to other infectious diseases that wiped out thousands). Only a matter of time till it happens again.

  42. Yes, I agree. From now on, all posts on this thread must be about George Romero’s Land of the Dead, which comes out tomorrow! (From Atmosphere Entertainment, which is in no way affiliated with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.)

    See it here.

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