Architecture in all the Wright Places

By local contributor
Katarina Kovacevic

Scottsdale’s stunning Sonoran Desert has long been a muse for design inspiration. And how could it not be? Just glance at the mountains in the late afternoon and you’ll be mesmerized by their deep shades of purple.

And while many an architect has fallen in love with Scottsdale’s rugged Sonoran Desert landscape, no one has fallen quite as hard as Frank Lloyd Wright, who first set up shop with Taliesin West in the 1930s.

Considered one of Wright’s greatest masterpieces, Taliesin West was designed to serve as his personal home, studio and architectural laboratory. Wright and his apprentices literally built Taliesin West out of the desert by gathering rocks from the desert floor and sand from the washes to keep the design in balance with the surrounding environment. Construction began in the 1930s and Taliesin West was constantly expanded and modified by Wright until his death in 1959. Today, a variety of daily tours give guests insight into Wright’s ingenious designs and his ability to seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor spaces.

Wright’s influence in Scottsdale is on display throughout the city, even in the work of other local architects and designers.

The late Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, who studied under Wright, designed more than 60 bridges in his lifetime, but the first to ever be built is here in downtown Scottsdale. Anchored by two 64-foot pylons, the Soleri Bridge & Plaza acts as a sundial, and its design includes a larger version of Soleri’s signature bronze bell.

At Soleri’s nearby artist compound, Cosanti, you can still see how these bells are made (call ahead for bronze pouring times). Cosanti and other points-of-interest are featured in “Scottsdale 30,” a guide to notable architectural spots in the greater Scottsdale area.

The guide is a fantastic resource not only for well-known places like Taliesin West and Cosanti, but also for off-the-beaten-path must-sees. This includes Cattle Track, a hidden 10-acre artist’s compound in the center of town that functions as a dual live/work space and offers a glimpse into Scottsdale’s strong rural character.