All you can eat A/C: Summer Desert Living for $1.00/day!

Here we are again thrust into the jaws of a typical Arizona Summer.  The time where most of us question the efficiency of ANYTHING related to living in our desert. The time where most of us discard a sensible “less is more” approach and look for the lowest temperatures delivered by the highest tonnage A/C available and at almost any cost!

It doesn’t have to be this way. We proudly represent VALI Homes, the preeminent builder of high-quality, high efficiency homes in Arizona.  Recently one of the principals in their firm, Austin Trautman, is on a mission to chart just how efficient a VALI home can be. The results will blow your mind!   Check it out:

“We’ve been testing the efficiency of our current house at different interior temperatures.  The low energy days in early May were with the AC off and the house holding 75 or lower with no AC and daytime temps into the low 90’s on some days.

We then put the AC to 72 to see what it took to hold that temp (it feels quite cold in there).  That cost a total of 40-80 cents a day with the fresh air supply on 24 hours!

Just to push it harder we set the thermostat to 68 and the outside highs have been well over 100.  That is outside of the ability of most homes no matter what the energy use and also well beyond the design parameters for new “high performance” homes.  Our home is holding that temp without breaking much of a sweat and on only $1/day!”

This is truly remarkable.  For what most people achieve only with fans and evaporative coolers, VALI gets in a no-compromise, fully featured, Modern Home. Their mission to deliver intelligently designed houses is wonderfully illustrated by these impressive stats.

Now we can really put it to the test with a forecast this weekend of nearly 118F degrees and an open house event (complete with open front door and a the body heat of dozens of visitors).  Want to see it to believe it? Join us this Saturday june 4th from 12-4.  The Architecture is as cool as the inside of this fab home!  And of course… refreshments will be served!  See you there!

Documentary to Honor Architectural Photographer Pedro Guerrero

Pedro E. Guerrero, a Mexican American born and raised in (then segregated) Mesa, Arizona, had an extraordinary international photography career. Filmmakers Raymond Telles and Yvan Iturriaga (Latino Americans) showcase an in-depth, exclusive interview with Guerrero alongside his photography to explore his collaborations with three of the most iconic American artists of the 20th century: architect Frank Lloyd Wright and sculptors Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson. Using his outsider’s eye to produce insightful portraits of important modernist architecture, Guerrero became one of the most sought-after photographers of the “Mad Men” era, yet his story remains largely untold.

A link to an online preview video can be found here:

American Masters – Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey highlights the milestones in Guerrero’s life: his serendipitous enrollment in photography classes, his 1939 meeting with Wright at Taliesin West (Scottsdale, Ariz.), his World War II service and his post-war magazine photography career in New York City, shooting interiors while his work with Wright continued.

Settling in New Canaan, Conn., Guerrero describes his life after Wright’s death, his work with Calder and the end of his magazine assignments because of his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War.  Guerrero returned to Arizona, where he lived until his death at age 95.  Guerrero’s second wife and archivist Dixie Guerrero; Nevelson’s granddaughter, sculptor Maria Nevelson; his friends, collaborators and architectural experts, including Martin Filler, also share insights and recollections.

American Masters companion website will feature a digital exhibit of Guerrero’s photography. American Masters will mount an Instagram photo campaign (#PedroPBS) inspired by Guerrero’s work, encouraging people to share their own local art and architecture photos. The best images will be featured on the series website, a video compilation on the American Masters YouTube channel and across PBS social media.

American Masters – Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey is a co-production of Paradigm Productions, Latino Public Broadcasting and Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with American Masters. Raymond Telles and Yvan Iturriaga are co-directors and co-producers,  Michael Kantor is executive producer for American Masters and Sandie Viquez Pedlow is executive producer for VOCES.

Produced by Latino Public Broadcasting, VOCES is PBS’ signature Latino arts and culture documentary showcase and the only ongoing national television series devoted to exploring and celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino cultural experience. The series is presented by PBS SoCaL and supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, the Ford Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation through a grant from the NALAC Fund for the Arts Grant Program. More information about VOCES is available at VOCES on Facebook or Twitter.

Set your DVR now! This promises to be an outstanding tribute to one of the most important American Photographers of our time. Don’t miss it!

Film + Conversation: Exhibition

The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright often suggests that design is a reflection of humanity. The two concepts are intrinsically linked. To tie this to another Wright-ism,  “The space within becomes the reality of the building.”

So what does this mean for the occupants of an unhappy home?

That’s a question posed by writer/director Joanna Hogg’s drama ‘Exhibition,’ where the space within takes on a perpetual ennui. The film examines the couple’s relationship to their contemporary home, as SMoCA described as “a labyrinth, refuge, prison and emotional battleground.”

Join us tomorrow evening at the SMoCa lounge in Scottsdale for a showing of the film, which stars Liam Gillick and Australian punk-rock star Viv Albertine. Afterward stay tuned for a discussion with our very own azarchitecture agent Sherry Cameron.

It should be an interesting discussion!

http://www.smoca.org/event/exhibition/

The Multiple Apertures of The Pond House

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

For 40 years, local architect Will Bruder has explored inventive and contextually exciting architectural solutions in response to site opportunities and the user’s needs. One of such creations, a modestly scaled 165 square meter weekend retreat, the Pond House, thirty miles south of Phoenix, bridges the metropolitan intensity of the city with an idyllic oasis of desert calm and contemplation.

Water in the desert always creates an oasis. An oasis draws plants and animals to it as iron to a magnet. So it’s not surprising this was the draw that led the owners of the Pond House to create a balance for busy city lives. The mystery of the Pond House starts with the land.

And what a place. At the top of Cave Creek, where geology and happenstance create a unique ecosystem that is quintessentially this state. Arizona roughly translates to “place of many springs,” so it could not be more fitting.

The Pond House sits at the blurred line between desert and the river banks. A natural swimming hole that occasionally feeds a raging river, at other times still pond, and in the driest of times, a remembrance of water.

Imbedded in a dramatic and ancient rock outcrop overlooking a natural stream that’s fed by the Cottonwood Creek, the location called for a sensitive approach and bold decisions.

Instead of committing to a typical full-scale home, the owners chose architect Will Bruder to create a modestly scaled sanctuary. The home would be simply about site and detail: A retreat of calm idyll of scenic contemplation where the noise of urban materialism would retreat into the rustle of cottonwood leaves.

He left nothing to chance.

Creating an intimate environment with functionality requires a level of connectivity of form, function and visuals, often not pursued in larger homes. Selectively placed windows of glass and colored translucent resins frame unexpected vistas and perspectives.

Viewed from the pond below, the house appears to blend, yet float gently above, the unique geology of its setting. Deep overhangs embrace the home in a definitive gesture of shelter.

Bruder positioned the home to nestle against the location, but disappear, which it does upon approach following a winding dirt path. What’s visible of the home is restrained: a sculptural wall and line that emerges from the Earth. The sloped coursing of the home’s stonewall elicits a sense of mythical ruins of past cultures.

A footpath guides you to the entry and the courtyard; a metaphorical canyon that offers the first glimpse of water, flowing invitingly from cast concrete basin and defining the entry court. The water quietly flows down a natural flagstone stair. A narrow slot of colored glass guides you to the door like a welcome mat of light, and invites you into the shadow-play of the foyer.

Walk down a few steps as you are drawn to the glow of east light beyond and suddenly you are released into the main living space with it’s elysian views, through carefully crafted comforts of selected materials and textures. Large sliding glass doors, a see-through hearth and spacious cantilevered concrete living deck help dissolve the line between inside and out.

Will Bruder likens these perspectives to “The architectural equivalent to living in a camera,” he said. “With the multiple apertures and lenses, the design and placement allow the owners to view their world as artists, from many different points of view.”

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

Food/Banks

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

Federal Pizza (formerly First Federal Savings)

5210 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85012

Phone: 602.795.2520

Whenever Upward Projects plans a new eatery, they always first acquire a location, then choose the cuisine. For Federal Pizza, it started vice versa.

At the time, they occupied only three restaurant spaces within about 500 feet of each other — now they have five — and surveyed neighbors who said they wanted a pizza place with drive thru.

In it’s past life, First Federal Savings housed just that and the vision of customers wrapped around the drive-thru, waiting for an order of wood-fired pizza, proved to great a vision to ignore.

It also helped that the 1969 Al Beadle building was a mid-century structure, which they all fancied. Some artifacts were easy to renovate, like his dome streetlights, others not so much, like the 1-inch steel underneath the old bank vault.

“We later found out that they inlaid that spot with steel to prevent people from tunneling up under the vault,” managing partner Lauren Bailey said.

 

The Vig Uptown (formerly Arizona Bank)

6015 N. 16th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85014

Phone: 602.633.1187

It doesn’t take much convincing to persuade someone that The Vig Uptown was once a bank. Just mentally erase a few things and one can easily picture where the teller made transactions and slipped out to adjoining rooms.

This attracted Tucker Woodbury and business partner Jim Riley to the former Arizona Bank location designed by Ralph Haver in 1962. Besides some atrocious dated décor from decades of occupancy, the tilt-wall construction of the property made it malleable for the partners to fulfill their vision for a second Vig location.

Most of Haver’s vision had been plastered over. Period pieces, like receded bowls of plaster molding, emerald glazed tiles and stained glass miraculously survived numerous renovations.

“We remodel many buildings where they’ve been ‘70s and ‘80s to death, meaning covering beautiful architectural elements with drywall, dropped ceilings, covering up what the original architects vision was.” Woodbury said.

 

The Chestnut (formerly Western Savings)

4350 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ 85018

Phone: 602.708.7679

Before The Chestnut opened as a new restaurant and marketplace, it was an innocuous location that everyone seemed to have on the tip of their tongues, yet no one could recall what business occupied the building.

In a former life, the building housed a Western Savings and hid some impressive architectural features. It concealed a massive square skylight at the center of the floor plan and an impressive view of the traffic from both sides of the intersection.

“It was almost like a blank space you drove by and you’re like, oh, there’s nothing, mostly because there’s nothing to commit to [memory],” Kirsten Steele, one half of the partnership, said.

Whenever she took her children to the pediatrician, the location slipped past her peripherals. It’s hard to miss now with a prominent yellow and black color scheme that popped out to both Steele and her sister/business partner, Marissa Hochman.

The Chestnut, an extension of the former Chestnut Lane, continues their dedication to locally sourced food, products and beyond. One day, Steele wants to expand upon their ecosystem by starting a farmer’s market.

“People always say are ‘you are competitors with this person,’ and we’re all different and provide something different,” Steele said. “It’s all about supporting each other and creating a space where you provide for the economy.”

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

The Glenn Murcutt Exhibition and Studio

azarchitecture/Jarson & Jarson are proud supporters of this Exhibit.

 

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

The Design School in collaboration with the Arizona State University Art Museum and members of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects have developed a very special exhibition of the work of Australian architect Glenn Murcutt that will display here.

Pritzker Prize Laureate Murcutt is world-renowned and noted for a body of work which subtly draws inspiration from the environmental conditions surrounding his designs. The exhibition provides an ideal vehicle to introduce Valley residents to the work of this world renowned architect, widely recognized for his ability to design projects notable for their response to challenges of climate, culture and communities.

The brainchild of The Design School Director, Craig Barton, the Exhibition was organized as a unique collaborative initiative between The Design School and the ASU Art Museum.  Architects and faculty members, and in collaboration with the Museum’s senior curator, Heather Lineberry, will lead an inter-disciplinary graduate studio which will design and install the exhibit in the ASU Art Museum.

The exhibition will be researched, curated, designed, fabricated, installed, and documented by a team of faculty and students from the School and Museum. Before starting the project, the students will travel to look at a few examples of world class architectural exhibitions. Accompanying the exhibit, The Australian Architecture Foundation has assembled a package of Murcutt’s work that includes drawings, renderings, photographs and models of a variety of projects that highlight Murcutt’s special genius for designing projects derived from a keen observation of natural conditions (Murcutt was designing “sustainably,” long before the term became fashionable).

Murcutt’s projects “touch the earth lightly”. Highlighting his nuanced responses to range of natural/climatic conditions this exhibition of Murcutt’s work would be of particular interest to those in our area as we respond to our challenging and changing environment. Additionally, the exhibition provides opportunities for schoolchildren, ASU students, members of the professional community and general public to see this master architect’s ability to design projects distinguished both by their stewardship of the landscape and evocative compositions of form and materials.

The exhibition opens in January and runs through early April.  “This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to design an exhibition which will help the public better understand the importance of Murcutt’s work to our community,” Barton said.

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

The Beauty of Organic Architecture in the Desert

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

A housing subdivision designed by a group of Frank Lloyd Wright apprentices is going to be nothing like your typical housing subdivision. In fact, not many even exist.

“I learned from Frank Lloyd Wright that the design of the home should reflect the place where you build it,” Wright apprentice John Rattenbury said.

Rattenbury and his fellow apprentices created two unique Arizona subdivisions with Mountain View Estates, and its more compact sibling at Mountain View East in Scottsdale, using Wright’s principles of designing natural, organic designs for their respective climates, while being budget-conscious.

In the late ‘70s, developer and contractor E. Russell Riggs acquired 40-acres of land where Mountain View Estates sits today, in Paradise Valley near Mountain View and Tatum. Riggs was introduced to the reputable firm Taliesin Architects, Wright’s architectural firm, who he asked to design a luxury subdivision there.

Rattenbury, with other Taliesin Architects at the time, was lead architect of two of the unique subdivision of homes in Arizona, as well as only a handful of other related subdivisions. One of his legacies was furthering Wright’s concept of organic architecture, which advocated architecture that fit its surroundings.

Fellow Taliesin Architect Arnold Roy, was also involved with the design, says the firm not only did this but conceived of a way the homes were placed, carefully assigning placement of each design to specific lots and how the homes cohesively as a whole.

The subdivisions are unique for their proportion and scale. Many of the homes look unlike what you typically see in the southwest: midcentury homes with arched roofs and brick-and-mortar foundations.

Erected using only half of a one-acre lot, the Wright homes are built almost on a grid-like system, with the typical four walls intruded upon on all sides by another square addition. They’re also mostly without angled roofs, closely resembling the region’s Adobe homes.

Architect Vernon Swaback, also worked extensively on the designs with Rattenbury during his time at Taliesin Architects. Swaback often worked on what he coined as “lonely works of art.” So when he introduced E. Russell Riggs to the firm, he was delighted to create something new and special.

“What excites me to this day is that with Riggs developed two distinct delivery systems for the homes,” Swaback said.

Buyers could commission them to create a custom home design using Wright’s principles, or they could select one of their own unique designs developed for the project. This system made obtaining a unique home as easy a process for a buyer.

A reflection of Frank Lloyd Wright’s modesty, the homes reflect Swaback’s passion to affordable architecture that can be shared and enjoyed by many, instead of a privileged few. Instead of being singular “lonely works of art” they remain a hidden treasure, still beloved and enjoyed.

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

Edited by Taylor Costello

Hello, Midtown

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

In advance of the summer solstice, the June 14 opening of Lisa Sette Gallery’s new location in Midtown Phoenix celebrated the desert metropolis as a singularly beautiful and culturally fertile civilization heading toward an urban renaissance.

Sette opened the doors to her newly renovated space on Catalina Drive to a robust turnout in the local art scene’s dry season. The event was a sort of Midsummer baptism despite the heat. Guests not only lined up as devotees of the gallery, but to catch a glimpse of the renovated 1979 Al Beadle structure, which once again emerged taut and square from the rocky earth like a Modernist gem.

Announcing the move, Sette remarked, “After 28 remarkable years in Scottsdale, we’re moving to a location that reflects the important artistic, cultural and geographic growth of the city’s urban core.”

“Hello Midtown!”—the title of the gallery’s June exhibition, served as both a succinct greeting to the new neighborhood and a nod to the changing nature of the central city, of which the entrance of the gallery is a signal event:

A block and a half from the gallery, the five-year-old METRO light rail line still alters the cultural topography to Phoenix’s central corridor and satellite cities. Meanwhile, mid-century-era, single-family homes and newer urban lofts push up against the commercial and corporate, creating ideal conditions for an integrated urban community. Lastly, integrated mercantile spaces, business ventures and startups, including P.S. Studios, founded by Sette’s husband Peter Shikany, are finding a home in midtown.

The entrance of the low-lying Beadle structure announces midtown as a true urban center that challenges the way of life in the desert metropolis, presenting its sophisticated design history and inherently radical aesthetic.

Grounded in the moral framework of Bauhaus and the minimalism of Mies van der Rohe, Beadle’s midcentury designs created an aesthetic template with his designs, as he generated nearly two hundred structures across the Valley for humans flourishing in the harsh desert.

Primarily below ground, yet conveying a distinct, stylized profile against the earth from which it rises, the building epitomizes this productive connection between the nature and culture. Sette collaborated with StarkJames architecture, to revive the office building with a series of careful renovations, including an opened interior that preserves Beadle’s original steel-beam ceiling.

The new gallery space includes a jewel-likecentral alcove evokes a sense of other worldly detachment—visitors gravitate toward this hidden, dream-like center, which is illuminated by a thrilling slice of concentrated sunlight from an overhead skylight. StarkJames architect, Wesley James likens the interior of the gallery to “a within-the-earth condition… setting the stage of moving down into the earth, leaving the mundane world behind.”

In its expansion and move to the Beadle building on Catalina Drive, the gallery follows a complex, contemporary trajectory toward the transcendent and the supremely centered, geographically defined and aesthetically advanced.

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

Edited by Taylor Costello

Becoming The Newton: The Lessons of Beefeater’s Adaptive Reuse

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

Like the proverbial bird of which Phoenix is named after, the restaurant that started as the Newton was reborn as the Newton.

Once a social spot for decades of customers, the English-inspired restaurant sat vacant and decayed into a hub for vagrants for almost a decade. It seemed destined to join hundreds of the valley’s vanishing architectural history.

Whenever Venue Projects co-partner Lorenzo Perez visited it, he described the building as “frozen in time.” When the restaurant opened as the Newton in 1961, later the Beefeaters, the restaurant’s atmosphere was a quintessential lounge vibe, dark with little natural sunlight. Now, it was also dark and decaying.

“It was a creepy place that made your hair stand up,” Perez said. “We’re walking in the back one day, all huddled together and [Southern Rail chef] Justin Beckett turned around, flashlight on his face, and said, ‘Does this remind you of The Blair Witch Project?’”

After original owner Jay Newton’s death in 2006, no one knew what do with his behemoth 18,000 sq. ft. space. A plan brewed to adaptively reuse the building by Venue Projects and partners using the existing structure, but the two million dollar price tag stood in their way.

The homeless ultimately helped them in their eventual purchase. The building sat vacant longer and furthered the decay, which knocked the listing price down by more than half. Then the process of stripping down walls, establishing new ones and creating new window frames, as well as mending the structure began in earnest.

However, the new spaces don’t end with walls; they all infer the massive space of the property. That’s one of the first things you notice when you look into Changing Hands bookstore and windows in the nearby Newton conference space, it implies the shear depth of the interior.

“Instead of being a one-liner where you show up to eat and shop, we thought, ‘How fun would it be if we’re entertaining, educating, getting people together for a communal experience?’” Perez said.

Not much exists from the old interior — the iconic dark stained wood walls are all gone. However, by the same edict, the new structure points to nothing but reminders of the former buildings identity. For instance, Perez’s co-partner John Kitchell planed old redwood for new surfaces, from the First Draft Book Bar to the doors.

Elsewhere, the ornate chandeliers were rehung and different shades of concrete flooring marked where old rooms started and ended.

And before the Newton opened in May, construction workers removed the husk of the Beefeater’s signage, but not thrown it away. To mark what once was, the project’s partners laid the sign upon the entrance of the bookstore and traced the outline onto the concrete.

“You could go broke trying to make these buildings perfect,” Perez said. “You gotta do the best you can and celebrate it.”

The full version of this article can be read at Defining Desert Living

Defining the Great Desert City – Part Four

The end is near.

We have been through a BRUTAL time.  Recovery from the Great Recession is beginning.  As brutal as it was,  here is the silver lining:  No-one has the the money to return to the old growth model…yet. But they want to!

Governments do not have the budgets to underwrite the new infrastructure to support significant new desert development. But they will find it soon because our tax base relies on it (remember the “addiction” in part one?).

Soon, very soon, and with blinding speed, we are poised as a Community to once again stoke the fires of Suburban Sprawl.   We must engage in this conversation now, because if we don’t, we will find ourselves with yet another outer ring of development that lasts a decade and pushes further and further out.

We are now at the crossroads of a unique opportunity: We can fight this sprawl from within – using a subversive approach.  Support development in the core; shop and eat local,  buy and lease “ in-town”.  Use your feet and cars and dollars to demand Inner development first!

The last Recession drew a line under new projects, stopping may bold and invigorating ideas and projects dead in their tracks.  As we ease back into normalcy, let’s change that line to a circle… The core of redevelopment can and should come with small to medium In-fill projects with a wide array of use and form.  The future for us is within this core.  Core urbanism saves the desert and creates the Great Desert City.   Density is our savior.  We have the existing infrastructure in place.  It’s where the projects will be.

Make the “City” the place to be. It already is.  Our client base LOVES the natural beauty of the higher desert elevations.  But they want the fabric of the urban core.  The next exodus is in, not out.  Look at simple success stories like LGO, Camelback and Central, and soon 44th Corridor, 16th and Bethany Home Road.: our clients want more of these areas.  They want to walk and bike to them. They want to live and work in them. It becomes a genuinely “connected” experience.

The Future is now- Define our Future

Our Opportunity? Dream a little. Define the place we live in.  I’d encourage you designed and architects out there to draw like hell, just create ideas and concepts.  Think out of the box and share the ideas.  People love to dream.  Yes, right now a Developer client may only dream of building under $150/SF, but in the case of small development, their clients, the Buyers, might sway them. Let’s have some big thinking.  We used to have an environment that would support this to some degree financially.  It’s not there and we have to think big…FOR FREE and that’s why we are here.  We cannot wait for a client to green light our creativity.

Our Opportunity? Define our materiality – include roofs and roadways.  Lasting “desert” materials.  A “desert” palette, and we know what it is… Steel, concrete, rammed earth adobe, glass.  We have no authentic regionalism, make authentic Architecture and materials our signature. Let’s demand and adapt and incorporate new materials that are cutting edge appropriate to our place.

Consider another alternative that does not rely on materiality.  We build here with Stucco and tile, okay, maybe we acknowledge that and think about what’s handled easily by the trades and then use it artfully…  It’s been explored before, successfully, to create the beginnings of a signature desert community.   Think of the work of Bennie Gonzales.

We are very close to having the “break through” moment.  It’s our time to seize the direction of our Valley.  How?

Our Opportunity? Define our sense of place – demand design for the region.  Shade, increasing density. increased efficiency, We need to explore the landscape more.  Call for and demand designs created for heat and Sun.  Those of us that are “follically challenged” are forced to wear a hat in the sun.  Just like I need to wear a hat in the summer to protect my head,  the same should go for how we protect the spaces we inhabit here.

Our Opportunity? Define the message – Professionals and consumers alike need to hone our skills to communicate desire for systems that designs which increase overall profit, lower costs and create efficiency.   We can become more adept at communicating the value of quality and design.  We need to become the voice that breaks the habit of building like it’s 1965, when power was cheap and  infrastructure new and limitless, the pinnacle of suburban planning.

Builders and developers will want to continue this same suburban path. Let them take that model elsewhere. We may have to turn a blind eye to what happens outside of the core in order to create the Great Desert City.  We can, and should focus our collective energy on where we can have the most impact.  If we are successful, consumer demand will alter this thinking over time will pressure a change to the suburban model.  Focus on the Urban Core, the rest will follow.

What makes a Great Desert City?
Are there any Great Desert Cities?

In thinking about this I have come to the conclusion that we may well be THE Great Desert City after all.

What we have is very unique.  Yes, we squander it, yes we miss opportunity.  But I know that change can come rapidly.  If you think of it, most of the more interesting buildings in this town seem to happen in roughly five year cycles. We are at the very beginning of the next five year cycle. This time let’s get ahead of it and be part of the voice that demands promotes the change.

So in five short years, we can collectively build a base, sway opinion, and define a good portion of what will influence, greatly influence, the outcome of our future.  The very fact that you are reading this defines you as a leader, a participant in our potential for community rebirth.  Collectively, your vision, your talent, your ideas and as much as anything, you voice defines THE Great Desert City.

Join me in becoming a part of it.  Thank you.

Defining the Great Desert City Part Three of Four

Can we become THE Great Desert City? We seem to be following the same path that we always have.  Are there opportunities for us to change as a Community?  Yes, and we should begins with some basics:

First stop on the road to change? It’s time to eschew denial. We should embrace the fact that it’s hot as hell here…

The heat is more manageable than ever but we still for the most part act as if nothing needs to be altered to accommodate for it.  We used  to accommodate our climate here, from clothing, to trees and houses, we have simply forgotten to do it.  It’s irresponsible to ignore it.

What should we expect in the future from the Great Desert City?  What do people tell us that they want?  Here’s the list of priorities:

Location:  We should define a “new” Desert City within the boundaries of the current one.  An “Urban Core” to focus attention on.  This is where clients tell me they want to live, work and play.  A vibrant mix of Residential and Commercial.  In our practice, we have never before experienced such a strong demand and inquiry for an urban experience here.

Create Shade: shade, shade, shade, shade. Landscape and tree considerations should become a material to design with like anything else.  In-fill buildings themselves create shade. Take our Offices at Loloma 5 for example.  Our entry court plants suffered every summer from sun thanks to an open Southern Exposure.  Now with a building next to us, the courtyard thrives and our south rooms are cooler.  Civic and open spaces have to be a little less open to provide relief from the sun. The era of concrete pedestrian malls are over.

Create Appropriate Scale:  I love the strong horizontal line of the desert but we need to admit that Great Cities are not 18-24 feet high.   We should embrace height more than we are. Routinely, buildings should be four to six stories in the core.  We have elevator technology, so let’s use it.  People will accept multi levels provided they retain access to mobility.  This applies to commercial and residential, hopefully a mix of the two. But in-fill residential does not have to be solely multi-family.  Fill up some vacant lots that are already zoned and ready to build with new Single Family Homes where appropriate.

Water and Where To Waste it.  We waste so much water it’s abhorrent.  That’s an issue that we can confront.  And part of that, is to make the decision to re-allocate a portion of that waste to civic and shared water uses.  Water draws the eye in the desert.  It will draw people to a shared asset.  I’m okay with that.  Let’s design for it.  Let water use be a tool that get’s people out of the car and onto the sidewalk, into the park or as a transit destination. It’s a fair trade. Water can become a tool used to fill buildings in the Core.  For decades, Developers get away with lakes and golf courses built to sell suburban homes.  We should use waterworks to entice urban density.  It’s far less wasteful.  Consider Optima Camelview Village.  It remains a desirable building.  One strong reason?  It’s the shade, it’s the plants (Plants = Water), it’s the courtyard…

Re-introduce courtyard living. Under the Tuscan Sun:  Everyone wants a Tuscan Villa.  Okay, let’s give them some portion of one…courtyards not lawns.   A central courtyard creates it’s own shade.  It is the oasis within the oasis.  This goes for commercial design as well. We got away from this thinking…  It’s a valid solution for the Desert.

Defining the Great Desert City Part Two of Four

Let’s challenge the norm and consider some ideas, concepts and consider new definitions:  Here’s what I feel defines a Great Desert City:

Desert Cities must share resources:  An easy example? The Canals are shared.  Look to our historic past, at least the elite desert dwellers shared resources.   Maybe the ruins of Pueblo Grande reflect the Hohokam equivalent of a gated community, but at least it was enjoyed to some degree communally. How else can you inhabit a climate such as ours in large numbers?

Who else considered this concept in depth? Let’s remember Paolo Soleri.  He thought and planned deeply about how to live in the desert. His concepts were not for everyone, but again,  with density comes the ability to share.   “Core Urbanism” saves the desert for all of us to enjoy.  This is one overlying message from Soleri that should resonate today.

Imagine when viewing any of the large design models of Arcosanti is the new Phoenix Velodrome (or insert any use that excites you here): One giant chiller for this massive space could connect to dozens and dozens of buildings within this core (we have done it already, look no further that the Chase Field Chiller). We need much, much more of this thinking…even if it’s conceptual.  If we talk about it, someone might actually do it. It’s up to us as a community to promote it.

Desert Cities must be more connective than other areas:  The traditional road-way has to be supplemented.  If we add density to the core, then the core becomes a more walkable place. However supplemented,  we must keep this in mind as we think about the future.  Further, transportation must become diverse.  We won’t all bike; definitely not all summer, and light rail is fixed in position.  We should consider a new paradigm for bus (such as light electric vehicles on tires) and should leave all options open.  We need to keep imagining all possibilities to connect at least the Urban Core without single use ridership cars. Our climate and resources cannot sustainable promote the automobile as part of our City Planning.

Desert Cities must acknowledge the climate:  Air-conditioning rules the world but we need to create natural environments that allow us a respite form the indoors!  Arcadia anyone?  Highest average price per square foot than any other area in Phoenix.  It even briefly lead the Town of Paradise Valley in values.  Why? it’s cooler!  It has shade, it’s walkable and bike-able. They way this area retains its outdoor connection may be water intensive and anachronistic, but the point is that all of this adds value and desirability.

Desert Cities must run on the sun:  It’s frankly obscene given the relatively obtainable cost of PV panels that each and every building in our area does not have SOME level of solar generation.

Germany leads the world in solar generation.  Are you kidding me?  Germany has less solar generating output potential than most of Alaska.  Alaska! Why not make THAT a signature moment for US here in the Valley? See below…

Desert Cities should be self sufficient:   Again, The Island.  We need to promote locally produced materials. And locally appropriate materials.  We need to start closing the loop on water and we need to design and act as if everything we use on our island costs 25% more. Because someday soon it will.  And frankly  already does, just at the back end not at the acquisition. Inappropriate materials do come at a cost.

Lastly: A Desert City should look like one.  It’s well past time that we begin to reassert our own unique regionalism.  We have the talent, and we have frankly a strong visual basis.  We can and should create a strong “brand” in our Valley concerning Architecture and design.  Whatever we decide we want to look like, we need to walk this path.

Consider this: When I say “The West’s most Western town” or “Santa Fe New Mexico, Santa Barbara California,you know what to expect of the place visually.  Sadly an adaptation of regional “style” works!  On some level these approaches looked liked they had some connection to the place and the history.  I’m not advocating a stylistic overlay and approach, but why should Palm Springs retain a Modern moniker and we don’t?  We are a modern place.  That IS our history.  We should embrace it.