Frank Lloyd Wright fans know Scottsdale as the site of the legendary architect’s winter home and studio, Taliesin West, but that’s just one of the city’s architectural treasures. The rugged beauty of the Sonoran Desert has inspired generations of visionary architects who have left their mark on Scottsdale. Here’s a look at some of their innovative creations, from a mid-century masterwork to a spirited new museum that’s a model of sustainability.
Inaugurated in 2015, Scottsdale’s Museum of the West showcases the region’s history and culture in a forward-thinking, eco-friendly building. Designed by Phoenix-based Studio Ma, the LEED Gold-certified museum keeps cool with a self-shading overhang, while a rainwater collection system irrigates the surrounding desert plants. The museum also repurposed the former Loloma Transit Station, originally designed by noted artist Vito Acconci, into a learning center and research library.
Architect Edward L. Varney, a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, combined modernism with Southwest flair in the Hotel Valley Ho, which opened in 1956 and quickly became a haven for Hollywood A-listers. An award-winning renovation and expansion led by Scottsdale-based Allen + Philp Partners was completed in 2005. Celebrity sightings still occur regularly, but the real star of the storied resort is its authentic mid-century architecture.
The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 1999 in a former cinema imaginatively transformed into minimalist galleries by Phoenix-based architect Will Bruder. SMoCA features changing exhibitions and two illuminating permanent works: a skyspace by renowned artist James Turrell and a radiant glass wall by James Carpenter Design Associates. The museum’s curving steelclad entrance also plays off the rounded adobe-inspired walls of the neighboring Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, a work by Arizona architect Bennie Gonzales.
Another Frank Lloyd Wright fellow, Italian born Paolo Soleri, settled in Scottsdale in the mid-1950s and pioneered the utopian concept of arcology, a fusion of architecture and ecology. Spanning the Arizona Canal in the downtown shopping district, his Soleri Bridge and Plaza opened in 2011 and serves as both a pedestrian crossing and grand solar calendar, reminding us all that life revolves around the sun.
No architectural tour of Scottsdale would be complete without a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, established in 1937 in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wright and his apprentices built the one-of-a-kind desert community based on his principles of organic architecture in harmony with nature. It continues to serve as a school and offers daily tours to the public.