Thursday, February 13, 2014

Arizona Biltmore Hotel

Sitting here in snow and ice it's hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago I was in paradise or at least the closest thing in winter: Phoenix, Arizona! One of the most well known sites in Phoenix is the Arizona Biltmore Hotel resort.
While many believe that Frank Lloyd Wright was the architect of the Biltmore Hotel it was actually Albert Chase McArthur, a mentee of Wrights and formerly in his employ. Frank Lloyd Wright consulted on the design for 4 months in 1928 which included his textile blocks. The hotel opened in 1929.
Wright developed these concrete textile blocks 6 years earlier for use in Los Angeles. Concrete blocks are formed with decorative patterns which give these buildings their distinctive appearance.
Oddly enough Wright did not get his way for once in design matters; the blocks here were designed as rectangles rather than Wright's squares by McArthur's insistence.
The grounds are exquisitely manicured as you can see in these pictures. The hotel sits in a desert but you'd never know it by the amount of surrounding green.
To take advantage of these grounds and the glorious winter weather all of the roofs function as patios for the rooms offering views of the grounds and in some cases the mountains beyond.
 The copper detailing mimics the textile block pattern.
Across the main entrance one can see the Wrigley mansion perched on a hill which is now owned by the resort and used as a private club.
 Some of these large roofs have nearly enough room to play a game of football!
The views are breathtaking. As you can see in some of the photos the resort has expanded from the main building over the years to include other wings and buildings - all designed in the same Wright-ian Prairie style.
Replicas of Frank Lloyd Wright's "Sprites" from his Midway Gardens project in Chicago (1915) dot the grounds as do many other Wrightian references.
 Can you imagine spending an entire winter here as people were wont to do in the 1930s & 40s?
 The textile blocks are a great backdrop to the vegetation.
 While visiting don't miss the fabulous swimming pool where Marilyn Monroe was often photographed.
 No detail is overlooked at the resort, not even the gate to the pool area!
In more recent history Senator John McCain conceded defeat for the Presidency of the United States on the hotel grounds in a newscast ( November 4, 2008) - yet another reason to enjoy the resort!
Inside the spaces are cool and dark. Other than the 2 story lobby spaces ceiling heights are low. Don't forget that although Phoenix can be delightful in the winter the hot summers are brutal and the building responds to that architecturally. Air conditioning was installed in the 1960s enabling the hotel to operate year round.
 These unusual columns surround the lobby, seen here from the second floor.
I loved the art deco mailbox still in use in the lobby.
The stairs throughout the hotel are open and airy. I wonder if the metal railings were added to the textile block guardrail later for code purposes (36" height) or were original?
Detail of the interesting stairs.
The textile blocks are used in many different ways. In some areas they are used as a sort of window with embedded glass (above), in other places they function as light fixtures, while on the exterior they make up the shell of the building.
I'll be bringing you more photos of the grounds of the Arizona Biltmore in future posts as well as my previously promised post on Taliesin West!


Eric H said...

So many awesome details! I'd love to see the rooms and furnishings to see if they've been modernized or in keeping with the original design.

The Swan said...

Having lived in a FLW textile block house many moons ago...these blocks are in perfect shape oddly without any erosion from the elements as he had all Comcrete. Iced with the local DG to blend into the landscape. Ours leaked in areas as the blocks were porous, and eroded much from wind, sun and rain.

Having said this...nothing beats living in a High Temple of of Art! You feel like a Goddess...those staircases and NEUTRA VDL HOUSE, Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler...both students and associates of FLW incorporated much...that pool entry looks so like the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo where all 3 worked many moons ago as well!

Divine Theatre said...

I second what Eric said, I would like to see the rooms as well!
Looking out my window, I cannot imagine it was ever green out there! It was lovely to see the flowers!



deana sidney said...

That is so funny, I ALWAYS thought the hotel was Wrights! All those blocks are so Wrightian. Well, whoever did it -- it feels like Wright. I love the use of the blocks but not so crazy about the lobby decoration... what's up with that?

Great tour... thanks so much.

The Swan said...

Just read up on McArthur and SAD how FLW demeaned this man and took away his thunder, although i do believe FLW was inspiration though FLW reeked of Anti-semitism.

I was always under the assumption FLW designed it.

Please forgive the typos above...I meant FLW had the blocks created from DG decomposed granite indigenous to the locale/site and mixed with Portland Cement is wreaked havoc over the years with the elements....crumbling, leaking, staining...but all the same a MASTERPIECE as if a Mayan Temple was just dropped onto a hill overlooking the City!

Nancy {at} powellbrower at home said...

What cool details and lovely site. Those warm temps sound great right now. hope you're safe and warm! Have a nice weekend. xo Nancy

The Devoted Classicist said...

I have long wanted to visit and was not up to date on the FLW issue. Thanks for posting all the detail images.

Mark Ruffner said...

I'm jealous of you and your accomodations! I want to be there, too! There are many things to appreciate about Wright's style (and McArthur certainly got it down pat), but I've always especially enjoyed what he did with textile blocks. I'd love to see more of that in today's buildings.