There is no stopping Bill Tonnesen, Hallman says. "Selling his vision can cost you political capital, sometimes, but it gets you great ideas — like a statue climbing up a wall. The guy's a genius, but he has some desire to stick his thumb in the eye of The Man, and a personality that makes life harder for him. It'll be worth it for the city, because without someone like Bill, we'll end up with more of the cookie-cutter crud that is going to destroy Tempe. What we need is interesting architecture that will live on and on."

It's the thought of that kind of immortality, Staiger believes, that drives her employer. "That's why he does it," she says, with a little laugh. "He wants his work to stand for him after he's gone."

Tonnesen's own home features boxed-in trees and a gridded lawn — two of the design elements for which he's become known.
Jamie Peachey
Tonnesen's own home features boxed-in trees and a gridded lawn — two of the design elements for which he's become known.
Tempe's Rothko apartment building, before renovation.
Courtesy of Bill Tonnesen
Tempe's Rothko apartment building, before renovation.
Rothko, after Tonnesen's renovations.
Courtesy of Bill Tonnesen
Rothko, after Tonnesen's renovations.
Rothko, after Tonnesen's renovations.
Jamie Peachey
Rothko, after Tonnesen's renovations.
Mill Rat is modeled after the young musicians who play for tips on Mill Avenue. His vest is made of mouse traps.
Jamie Peachey
Mill Rat is modeled after the young musicians who play for tips on Mill Avenue. His vest is made of mouse traps.
Venus of Burning Man makes reference to the massive, annual, counter-culture arts festival in the Nevada desert.
Jamie Peachey
Venus of Burning Man makes reference to the massive, annual, counter-culture arts festival in the Nevada desert.

She glances nervously at her boss, waiting for him to join the conversation; perhaps to discuss the big, new design plans he has in store for Tempe and beyond. But Bill Tonnesen is staring at the floor, lost in thought. It's very likely he's thinking about how to rid the world of dog shit.

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5 comments
sage
sage

bill is just a pompous asshole. 

wonsamm
wonsamm

Well now that jsut makes a ll kinds of sense dude.

 

www.Max-Privacy.tk

sarum
sarum

Ha! I like Venus of Burning Man . . . but really what is most fascinating is the money part - lots of very creative people are destroyed by the money issue . . .

pleabargain
pleabargain

I hired Bill Tonnesen in the 1990's based on a piece in an Arizona magazine on his landscape design talent.  I was astonished at the beauty, creativity, and his unique designs...

We lived in Yuma..had a large backyard that needed lots of help....at the time there was no one in Yuma I knew to do the job.....I went to his office in Phoenix--met him--explained what I was looking for--somewhere in the conversation it came up I played tennis in college.....He said he would do the plan for me if I agreed to play tennis with him every time he came to Yuma..Plus he wanted an exorbitant fee.....I was a harried mom with 5 children.--a new baby--..the tennis game was  ridiculous/weird --considering how little time I had...I wanted his professional talent but had no use for everything else that came with his talent....so I said good-bye and hired someone else.....who didn't have his talent but got the job done professionally and efficiently....I came away shaking my head, wondering what would happen to Bill T.   His story is pretty much how I thought it would be...

janettray
janettray

Haven't met Tonnesen, so I'm neither a fan nor foe. But kudos to you, New Times, for the long, informative and entertaining article!

 

 
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