Last week the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy hosted its 25th annual conference in Phoenix based out of the fabulous Arizona Biltmore Hotel and Resort. I spent an afternoon with them as a bus captain for their afternoon architectural tours around Phoenix. It was wonderful because I got to experience a lot of stunning architecture.
I arrived at the Biltmore early, so I could have time to explore this pseudo-Wright building. I won’t get into the whole story because it’s complicated, but the short of it is Wright was brought to the Valley to consult on the construction system being used by Albert Chase McArthur on this new hotel resort. McArthur was Wright’s former draftsman and was using Wright’s textile block construction technique.
The whole project has a very Wrightian feel, but as experts including Wright will tell you it is off in many ways. If you want to learn more about this, I’ll direct you to Volume 2, Number 2 of the Journal of Organic Architecture + Design, which is all about the hotel. The best part about the journal’s coverage of this building is the several pages of correspondence, writings and comments about the building and its construction directly from the two major players, so you can decide for yourself.
No matter who gets credit for the finished product, it is beautiful in many ways. The hotel has a presence when you approach that commands everyone’s attention. As mentioned above, it is made of concrete textile blocks, a method of construction Wright pioneers with a few homes in Southern California. The block pattern for the Biltmore is lovely and nicely repeated and used in the overall design.
The lobby of the hotel also has a regal feel that says from the very beginning that this is a fine luxury hotel. I wandered the grounds a bit too through lovely gardens, past little cottages (that some experts say are all-Wright), and into stunning ballrooms—particularly the Aztec Ballroom that is under the copper roof seen at the front of the hotel right off the lobby.
As you might imagine, the Biltmore being the only luxury accommodations in Arizona for decades, it was the place to stay for the rich and famous. Numerous presidents have stayed there and countless movie stars. A fun little fact, not everyone was fully enamored with their sunny retreat. Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas while lounging poolside at the Biltmore.
Stay tuned for a little about the other adventures for that day.