Architecture and Design

A Modern Phoenix Tour with Alison King

Mid-century modern maven Alison King led the first of Phoenix Design Week's Modern Phoenix tours on Saturday. The daylong excursion is best described as a grownup field trip (complete with Capri Suns on the bus) catering to lovers of architecture, innovative design, and historic preservation.

After exploring the Phoenix Financial Center, which was the meeting place and first stop, the small bus took the group of around 20 to The Vig to pick up sandwiches (the tour was not lacking in snacking), then we were off to Arcadia, Paradise Valley, and, finally Sunnyslope.

Full of interesting tidbits and visually striking residential and commercial spaces, the tour included realtors, homeowners, and architects who met with the tour group at each stop to impart their knowledge of the structures.

At the Financial Center, a guide took us to the top of the tower, and led the group through the two rotundas, whose skateboard-shaped stairs, tunnel to the main building, and Mad Men-esque offices had the group poking around for a good amount of time.

After that, we were off to Valley National Bank branch at 44th Street and Camelback (known to some as the Flintstone or mushroom bank), which was designed by Frank Henry, a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright. Henry met up with the group and explained the creative and political process of designing and building the bank -- including a battle with the Arcadia neighborhood, which, in the early '60s, strongly opposed any development that didn't involve farming.

In Paradise Valley, the first stop was a fixer-upper in the Clearwater Hills neighborhood. 

Called the Shaffer home, it was full of mid-century quirks including brightly tiled bathrooms, tropical wallpaper, built-in shelving, and pink screen walls.

The tour continued to a tract home located in Paradise Gardens

Al Beadle designed the residence, but due to disagreements, the architect dropped out of the project halfway through completion. The tract home features a one-of-a-kind pivoting carport structure that revolves around the side of the house on a track.

The final residence on our tour was located in Sunnyslope at the base of S Mountain, and was designed by an unknown Taliesin apprentice. 

The house is currently being remodeled by local design firm 180 degrees. A cantilever porch, reclaimed and recycled elements (including the Douglas-fir deck), and a fireplace moved from New Orleans are some of the striking additions.

Modern Phoenix will host multiple tours during Design Week. For more information or to buy tickets, go here.
See all of the photos here.

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski