On the Road: More Phoenix Tidbits

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil.

On the last Mod Blog, I subjected you to everything Paolo Soleri in and around Phoenix, and while that was the focus of my trip, my husband and I did check out a few other spots in the area that I thought I’d share with you.  First up is a place that any lover of mid-century modern architecture must have on his/her bucket list, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West:

Of all of our architecture adventures, this destination was definitely my non-architecture-loving husband’s favorite, and we spent quite awhile on the tour marveling at the perfection that is this place overlooking town … and electrical wires.  The wires were erected years after Wright began building this home in the late 1920s.  He was quite miffed that the unsightly wires impeded his view of the valley, so he designed an underground wire system and presented it to the city, but town leaders refused to move the wires.  Wright then decided that he would disassemble and move Taliesin West to another location, but his much more practical wife put the kibosh on that idea, deeming it much too expensive.  Wright resolved the quandary by reorienting entrances and buildings so that the best views were now toward the mountain and away from the valley, which he never wanted to see again.  Go here to read more history about this incredible property, and you’ll definitely want to read this riveting article about the adventures Wright and his gang had on their yearly excursions from Wisconsin to Arizona and back.

Here are just a few of the shots I took of the place:

The living room is beyond glorious and, originally, the room was open to the elements with the windows covered in canvas.

I loved the rock art by Wright’s pal, Clare Booth Luce:

After the devastating fire and murder at Taliesin in Wisconsin, Wright wanted to make sure that any fires could be easily extinguished in his desert home.  So, he had pools built near the kitchen, both in the front and back of the house.  This is one of them:

The intimate theater was pretty impressive, too:

I highly recommend signing up for either the first or last tour of the day to get the best light for photographing the buildings.  There’s also a night tour you can take, which will definitely be on my list for next time.  We were on the last tour of the day and hung around after the tour as the sun creeped below the horizon, creating a spectacular light dance with the home:

Another stop on our architecture tour was the dramatic Valley National Bank, located at 4401 E. Camelback Road in Scottsdale:

The bank, which is featured on the cover of Midcentury Marvels: Commercial Architecture of Phoenix, 1945-1975 (I highly recommend it),  was designed by Wright associate, Frank Henry, and was completed in 1967.

It’s a stunning mix of rock, sharp curves, and clerestory windows, and saucer-like exterior umbrellas that provide much-needed shade from the brutal sun:

Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside this beauty, but you can definitely go in and marvel at the gorgeous design.  There’s also a plaque with a history of Henry and the bank near the vault door.  Check it out!

Another stop we made was at the David Wright house, which was designed by his dad, Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1952.  The spiral-shaped home on chunky stilts came close to being demolished a few years ago but is now open as a museum.  Unfortunately, when we were there, the home was closed and it looks like construction is being completed on a parking lot.  I did sneak a photo of the home through the fence, though:

Can’t wait to tour this beauty the next time we’re in town!

Next up was the glorious Biltmore Hotel in Scottsdale.  I’ve wanted to tour this place for a LONG time and was not disappointed.

Designed by Wright protege Albert Chase McArthur (with Wright as a consulting architect), the luxurious resort was completed in 1929 and has been the go-to place for presidents, movie stars, and just regular Joe’s like you and me ever since.

The pre-cast, uniquely-patterned concrete blocks were made onsite and are the hotel’s most interesting feature:

Although a room at the Biltmore is quite pricey, it’s well worth stopping and having a snack or drink and checking out this extraordinary piece of architecture.

Another hotel that is a must-see is the super hip Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale:

Located just a couple of blocks from Old Town Scottsdale, the Valley Ho was revamped a few years ago and restored to its mid-century modern splendor:

The rooms are pretty spiffy, too:

Although the rooms aren’t cheap, it is well worth splurging to stay at the Valley Ho, not only for the great atmosphere at the hotel but also because you can walk from the hotel to all of shops, restaurants (like the wonderful Italian Grotto), and galleries in Old Town.  You can also stroll to the Civic Center district, where the Performing Arts Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art are located.

There are so many incredible examples of mid-century modern architecture in and around Phoenix that I’m already planning my next trip to the city to take in more of the goodies there.  Can’t wait!