phoenix, part two
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The conference was held at the Arizona Biltmore, a fancy-shmancy hotel designed by Albert McArthur and built in 1929. McArthur was a protegé of Frank Lloyd Wright (who also served as a consulting architect for the job). The place was huge – a sprawling complex composed of the main building and several cottages, “villas” and support buildings. When [...]
The conference was held at the Arizona Biltmore, a fancy-shmancy hotel designed by Albert McArthur and built in 1929. McArthur was a protegé of Frank Lloyd Wright (who also served as a consulting architect for the job).
The place was huge – a sprawling complex composed of the main building and several cottages, “villas” and support buildings.
When we were there temperatures would dip into the 30′s at night, so each morning we’d see all of the flowers protected with plastic until mid-morning or so. Was it weird to see flowers in December in the first place? Yes.
Between conference sessions, we’d have a 15 minute “coffee break”, but we usually headed straight outdoors to the adjacent terrace to soak up some vitamin D and scheme about ways to become weekend snowbirds.
The lobby of the hotel, decorated for the holidays. There were also two restaurants on the premises – the upscale “Wright’s” and the more casual “Frank and Albert’s”. One night, Kyle even ordered a “Wright’s ‘Rita” (though for the life of me I can’t see FLW sipping margaritas, he’s always struck me as a straight scotch kind of guy).
If only all hotels milked the architect(s) as much as the Biltmore.
The conference ended on Friday but we weren’t flying back to Seattle till the next evening. So on Saturday we rented a car and drove over to Scottsdale to see Taliesin West.
Visiting FLW projects seems to be on every architect’s bucket list and we’ve checked quite a few off so far. I got an early start by growing up a few blocks away from the Price Tower and during architecture school we visited Falling Water, the Robie House and a few others while in Pittsburg and Chicago. A few years ago, Kyle toured Taliesin East as part of a window factory tour (we architects know how to have a good time!) and we even saw a few others on this trip in the neighborhood surrounding the Biltmore.
It’s always interesting to see his projects in person, not only because they’re crazy and weird and beautiful but also because they are far from perfect. Frank certainly experimented with building science in his time and many of his works reflect that. Taliesin West has certainly taken a beating over the years from the relentless southwest sun, but the ideas and techniques to deal with that big ball of fire and use of local materials remain strong. (The home was, in many aspects, “off the grid” the first ten or so years. They still get all of their water from a nearby aquifer.)
Also, that reflecting pool below is actually a tool to help cool the structures via evaporative cooling. Oh Frank, so ahead of your time.
Some of the wood beams have since been replaced with steel but we noticed some substantial deflection in other parts of the house. I’m not sure what the official policy is on restoring vs. leaving as is, but I’d be curious to know.
…and archidork #2. (Whatever, it is a pretty sweet gate.)
[For more TW photos, check out Morgan's collection from her recent trip.]
We had grand plans to spend the rest of the day on a scenic driving tour, but we didn’t leave Taliesin until early afternoon so we decided to stick around the Phoenix area instead. All was not lost though. We found an In-N-Out for lunch and finally got to see what all the hype was about. It was good. Not amazing, but good.
Before heading back to the airport, we stopped by the main public library, designed by Will Bruder and built in 1995. Like most metropolitan libraries, it’s a large, iconic structure that experiments with different ways to both express and protect from harsh sunlight.
Being in a library like this always reminds me what an incredible public (and free!) resource they are to the surrounding community. Kyle was amazed that you could check out DVDs and music. Obviously we need to visit our own libraries more. =)
After leaving the library we still had a few hours to kill. We considered lounging in the sun in a nearby park, but truthfully we were tired and worn out and decided instead to take an earlier flight back to Seattle. It was a good trip, but we were glad to get back to the mossy northwest, taking comfort in the fact that the sun is only a 2 1/2 hour flight away.
Filed under: design, misc.