For those who are always on the hunt for vestiges of mid-century modernism, you’ll have some happy surprises right in Optima®’s own backyard — in Scottsdale. Here you’ll discover a history that is rich in architectural heft, including wholly-intact examples from the city’s 1950s community, where some of the finest mid-century modern structures remain.
Striking examples of mid-century modernity can be seen in Scottsdale’s commercial buildings scattered across the city, alongside several repurposed pubs and restaurants. Architectural gems can also be found in older neighborhoods. Especially those that were built by Ralph Haver. A local architect who utilized walls of glass, low-pitched roofs, and angled porch posts all packaged within a modestly-sized home.
And don’t miss another example of impeccably-renovated mid-century vernacular in the sleek Hotel Valley Ho. The hotel boasts façades of glass and concrete panels that express arrowhead motifs. Opened in 1956, it was largely a getaway for a number of Hollywood stars. Zsa Zsa Gabor rode horses there. Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner had their wedding reception in the hotel ballroom. And Jimmy Durante used to play piano late at night in the lobby.
The Arizona Biltmore, a 39-acre resort not far down the road, is another example of the city’s architectural history. The Biltmore is often identified as a Frank Lloyd Wright building, but it was actually designed in collaboration with Albert Chase McArthur, a protege of the great master.
The Biltmore has the dramatic presence of a large-scale Wright building, and is one of only 13 structures that Wright designed and in the area. His students, on the other hand, were involved with many others. For Wright acolytes, any visit to the Phoenix area begins with his winter residence and headquarters, Taliesin West. Now home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and located on the edge of the McDowell Mountains outside of Scottsdale. Which also happens to be where our most recent architectural development will be situated — Optima McDowell Mountain Village — Wright passed on his genius to an entire generation of eager architects such as Blaine Drake, Vern Swaback, and Heloise Crista.
No survey of mid-century modernist architecture is complete without the David and Gladys Wright House. David was one of Wright’s eight children, and the house the elder Wright designed for him was based on a rising spiral (also the design for New York’s Guggenheim Museum) while remaining imaginative and human in scale. The spiral lifts the living quarters above the treetops so that anyone in the house has access to carefully framed panoramic views of the mountains in the distance, and spaces that flow organically and wonderfully into one another.
It’s always a pleasure to connect our “Forever Modern” mantra at Optima® with the broad, deep mid-century modern legacy that lives on in the communities where we work and build!