Watch: BASF and Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation: Partnering to Preserve Taliesin West from Termites

To ensure Taliesin West will be standing for future generations of aspiring architects and an adoring public eager to tour of one of America’s great historical landmarks, BASF partnered with the foundation to provide a sustainable total termite control solution featuring the latest Termidor® termiticide innovations and Trelona® Annual termite bait stations.

BASF and ProBest Pest Management Team Up to Protect Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterpiece in the Desert

Frank Lloyd Wright was an architectural genius, a transformative figure in American popular culture. And Taliesin West, home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., is a living testament to his groundbreaking architectural vision.

Built to coexist harmoniously with the Sonoran Desert, Taliesin West was the winter home of the world-renowned architect. It features a collection of buildings that embrace his concept of “organic architecture,” whereby buildings are designed and constructed in harmony with the natural world.

“Deeply connected to the desert from which it was forged, Taliesin West possesses an almost prehistoric grandeur,” states the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation website. “It was built and maintained almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it among the most personal of the architect’s creations.”

But there is more to this National Historic Landmark than simply Wright’s winter home. Spread over 500 acres on the southern slope of the McDowell Mountain Range overlooking Paradise Valley, Ariz., the complex features dozens of buildings and hosts the prestigious School of Architecture at Taliesin, where apprentices from around the globe come to “learn by doing” while earning a master’s degree in architecture.

Preserving History

There is no doubt to the historical significance of Taliesin West and its current role as a center of architectural innovation. That’s why when those responsible for preserving the beloved site discovered termite mud tubes in Wright’s historic home several years ago, they knew immediate action was required. What they didn’t anticipate was the complexity of the challenge before them.


“Taliesin West is located in virgin desert that has never been treated with a termiticide,” observed Dr. Paul Baker, extension specialist emeritus at the University of Arizona, and a consultant for the facility.


“It’s a very wild, natural environment, a rich habitat for termites, so when we saw termite tubes in the home we became concerned” said Fred Prozzillo, vice president of preservation for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. 


The building itself also posed significant challenges from a pest control perspective given the unique materials used to construct the home including desert rocks stacked within wooden forms — known as “desert masonry” — and a massive amount of concrete.


“There are plenty of gaps in the concrete where termites can make their way up from the soil,” said Keith Birkemeyer, owner of ProBest Pest Management, who has serviced the account for nearly a decade. “And the walls are 2 to 3 feet thick so that’s another challenge. It’s a very complex environment.”

There are also drainage issues associated with the property, but because the site cannot be altered due to its historical significance, both Birkemeyer and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation were forced to take a “Band-Aid” approach to the problem, addressing localized termite issues individually throughout the building as they arose.


“We were trying to knock this stuff off a little bit at a time,” Prozzillo recalls, but the termites kept coming back. “It’s extremely difficult to control termites if you don’t have the ability to drill inside, so we were very pleased when BASF said they would like to help.”


Birkemeyer, a 28-year veteran of the industry, was already familiar with the company’s products, so when he reached out to BASF Territory Sales Specialist Matt Spears and Technical Services Specialist Dr. Freder Medina, he was pleased by their positive response.


Charles Phillips, product marketing manager for BASF, said, “It’s not your typical termite account, but we thought our product line could help and we were happy to contribute to something that is an important part of American history. Everyone was eager to get involved.”

The Treatment

ProBest and BASF treated the first of three buildings (Frank Lloyd Wright’s home) in December 2018, taking approximately six hours to complete the job. The results were impressive.


“They performed the treatment one morning and there was very little disturbance to the surface,” Prozzillo said. “They didn’t drill or trench and we didn’t have to remove any of our plantings. You couldn’t even tell they were there. It was quick and easy.”


That’s because ProBest treated the property with the Termidor® HP II High Precision Injection System. The innovative hydraulic injection system replaces manual rodding and trenching*, saving up to 90 percent of the time required to apply conventional liquid treatments.


In addition, inline mixing guarantees dilution accuracy and an onboard computer ensures accurate application of Termidor® HP II Termiticide, which achieves 100 percent termite control in three months or less.


“Now we’re taking a more complete solution approach to termite control on the site,” Baker said, utilizing Termidor® HP II as the centerpiece of the program, while complementing its use with a Trelona® ATBS® Advance® Termite Bait System program. “This is a long-term project,” he said.


Trelona® ATBS®, featuring the active ingredient Novaluron, achieves ongoing structural protection through colony elimination. With its larger station design Trelona® ATBS® is proven to promote faster discovery, consumption, and elimination. In addition, an annual inspection label frees up your business to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively.


“We did a little bit of interior work as well,” Birkemeyer said, utilizing Termidor® Foam Termiticide/Insecticide to treat voids and termite tubes inside, providing yet another level of termite control.

A Powerful Partnership

“The project took a little time to come together, but the people at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation were ecstatic with how well the treatments went,” Birkemeyer said. It was also a gratifying project for both ProBest Pest Management and BASF representatives.


“We worked well together as a team,” he said. “My goal was to preserve the building and Frank Lloyd Wright’s historical legacy, and I think we’re well on our way to doing just that thanks to the expertise provided by BASF.”


“The opportunity to help protect an important historical site and use our termite products and methods to do it, made it an easy decision to help,” Phillips added. “It ties into our commitment to innovation which is what the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is all about, protecting the legacy of one of our country’s great innovators.”


“We learned BASF and ProBest Pest Management have a lot of the same values we have,” Prozzillo said. “They’re not interested in putting a lot of pesticide into the ground and have a genuine desire to conserve the land. It was nice to find partners with similar values,” particularly given the preservationist’s heartfelt attachment to Taliesin West.


“I lived on the property as a student many years ago and I was lucky enough to come back and now care for this landmark,” he said. “It’s more than just a job to me. It’s an important part of my life caring for these buildings and grounds.”


And thanks to the efforts of ProBest Pest Management, BASF and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Taliesin West will be standing for future generations of aspiring architects and an adoring public eager to tour the buildings and grounds of one of America’s great historical landmarks.


*Under most conditions.

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