Whatever the reason, few homes in the Valley have basements. And, for people with a tendency to hoard, like New Times contributor Robrt Pela, that may be a good thing. Because, as he tells us, it's easier to pile up crap if you have a giant hole in the ground under your house, where no one can see the neatly arranged rows of Rubbermaid boxes filled with stuff that you're certain you'll need someday.
"Not that I would know. I mean, sure, my basement contains several dozen boxes filled with the stuff I use to make assemblage pieces for the occasional art exhibit. And, yes, I do have, down there tucked just behind the furnace, an entire set of vintage Melmac dinnerware, service for 12, still in its original packaging. And seven boxes of old Tiger Beats and Esquires and Archie Comics titles. And 15 packing crates filled with books that I read and didn't like but that, if I ever find the time, I plan to take to Bookmans to trade for store credit. And four coffin-size containers of carefully wrapped paintings and contemporary art that I don't have room for upstairs on the walls of my house. Also three pieces of matching luggage and an electric fan that doesn't work but is too cute to throw out.
"In the Midwest, where I hail from, people actually live in their basements. There's usually a wet bar down there and maybe a tiny kitchen and always a sofa that leaks its stuffing a little but is perfectly good for sitting on while watching television. But this is Phoenix, and my basement is what is referred to as "unfinished," which means it's a great place to put things so that my house remains tidy and doesn't look like an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive. Which is a show that wouldn't exist if everyone had a basement."
They do exist, if you know where to look.
Mesa's Grove District is a hot spot for basement homes here in the Valley. Not only is the fertile, irrigated soil in these former citrus fields a little softer, but the large Mormon and Catholic populations mean (in the case of the former) generally larger families, who are also encouraged by church leaders to stockpile large quantities of food in case of emergencies. No wonder longtime Mesa realtor Charlie Randall says a home with a basement "sells twice as fast" in this 'hood.
Most people who want a glimpse into futurist Paolo Soleri's vision hoof it north an hour to his Arcosanti, when a good feel for the guy is available right here in town.
Soleri lived and worked in Paradise Valley from the 1950s on (not far from Taliesin West, where he studied). Today, his disciples are still hard at work, casting the bells that fuel his now-obviously futile passions.
Located on the grounds of Cosanti, the "Earth House" is billed as the "original underground house." We're not so sure about that (what about the cavemen?) — but we do know the partially submerged building is considered a fine example of underground house construction in the Valley. Built in the mid-'50s, it looks a lot like the Flintstones' house — but with lower A/C bills.
To see more photos of the Earth House, visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bestof2011.