DPJ is launching a new placemaking editorial series in partnership with the Phoenix Metro Chapter of the AIA (American Institute of Architects). Together we will explore places in our city, look closer at what makes them special, and perhaps challenge those who want to contribute to our built environment to approach downtown development in a more thoughtful way.
Some consider me to be overly optimistic.
Over the years, in countless conversations critical of Phoenix, I have advocated positivity. I do this, perhaps, because I arrived in Phoenix devoid of expectation. I was happily naïve. I relocated to the valley in the 70s. I was 22. The metro population was barely 1.5 million. Suburbia was well on its way but not yet a sea of…
“houses made of tickytack and they all looked just the same.”
It was before the great musician Don Henley warned us about over development and the low standards of 20th Century westward migration: “Some rich men came and raped the land, / Nobody caught ‘em. / Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus, people bought ‘em.”
Or Joni Mitchell’s prophetic lyrics, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Yes, the glory days of post war 50s Phoenix were still evident in the early 70s. Specifically, mid-August, 1973. Of course, it was HOT. But I didn’t care. Palm trees, spectacular sunsets, saguaros, swimming pool lifestyle, the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright, the utopian ideals of Paolo Soleri, and the promise of Modernism by bad boy Beadle made the Valley a magical place for an inexperienced Oklahoma kid holding a new degree in architecture. Easily, unavoidably, I fell in love.
Phoenix and I matured together. However, to open-minded intellectuals, Phoenix remained the big city with “no there, there”—in a perpetual search for identity.
I could not accept the cynicism. How could they not see we were just on the cusp of a great transition. We had visionary leaders such as Mayor Terry Goddard and then ASU Dean of Architecture, John Meunier, who were too smart and motivated to miss the potential of this unique desert urban center.
Admittedly, I sometimes wondered, “how wide is this damn cusp? Just one more decade…!”
Nevertheless, when I was successful enough to consider moving my home office to commercial space, I first searched downtown Phoenix and found interesting, special, treasured spaces. Although I could not afford it, I dreamed of my studio in the rooftop penthouse of the old Hanny’s department store. Also, there was this tiny house which is still on the top of the San Carlos Hotel. I discovered the incredible ball room in the historic Security Building which would later become the home of ASU’s Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory.
I eventually located Jones Studio uptown (above) in a beautiful courtyard building designed by my hero, Al Beadle. That was over 30 years ago!
Suddenly, it was the 21st Century, and I realized it had been a long time since I had thought about being trapped in a cusp.
So, several years ago (seems like last week) I found myself in the area of Glendale and Central on a perfect Saturday morning. Traffic was light, so I decided to drive South and route myself through downtown, just for fun.
Through the tree-lined valley of Central, between Glendale and Bethany Home, I continued south past the Heard, the pink Phoenix Tower, the beautiful Phoenix Art Museum, light rail, people, the library, Roosevelt, and more people. By the time I cruised past “Her Secret Is Patience” I was rejoicing. At some point, without me, the cusp had been crossed and I lived in an amazingly beautiful city. Phoenix had become a city that is self-aware, forward thinking, obviously proud and, thanks to another fellow optimist, Mayor Greg Stanton, a city representing a strong first line of defense against shortsighted state politicians.
To all past and present cynics…I told you so!
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
AFTER NEARLY 3 DECADES ON MARSHALL WAY, LISA SETTE GALLERY TO OPEN IN MODERNIST ARCHITECTURAL GEM IN MIDTOWN PHOENIX, JUNE 14
Summer Show, “Hello Midtown!,” Showcases Local, National, International Artists
The Lisa Sette Gallery – which offered experimental and contemporary art for 28 years on iconic Marshall Way in Scottsdale – will blend its artwork and reputation with another work of art – an Al Beadle-designed midtown architectural classic – with a soft opening of its new location and the inaugural summer show, “Hello Midtown!” on Saturday, June 14. The reception, from 1-4 p.m., is open to the public.
A formal grand opening is being planned for the fall. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 12-5 p.m. or by appointment.
The gallery’s new location – the sleek, low-slung and semi-subterranean building at 210 East Catalina Drive – features expanded gallery and exhibit space, a full kitchen, additional storage and convenient parking adjacent to the 3,500 square foot building. The venue is the architectural twin of a building just across the parking lot to the east that is the home of PS Studios, a graphic design firm owned by Sette’s husband, Peter Shikany.
StarkJames principle Wesley James preserved the Beadle building’s original structure. The most striking change is a sun-protective fabric scrim that wraps around the building and “allows us to set the stage for what will be a beautiful transformation when the fabric is lit from the exterior for evening exhibition openings and special events,” James said.
Sette said the new location also will “provide intimate exhibition areas and greatly improved back of the house spaces for that are ideal for hosting salons, artist events and diverse arts programming.”
“After 28 remarkable years in Scottsdale, we’re moving to a location that reflects the important artistic, cultural and geographic growth of the city’s urban core,” Sette said. “Our new home will offer tremendous opportunities to introduce and engage new audiences to the original and intriguing forms of expression of the artists the gallery represents.”
“Hello Midtown!” will spotlight the diverse works of local, national and international artists from the Lisa Sette Gallery roster including Damion Berger, Rachel Bess, Huang Binyan, Enrique Chagoya, Kim Cridler, Binh Danh, Claudio Dicochea, Angela Ellsworth, Alan Bur Johnson, Jessica Joslin, Siri Devi Khandavilli, Mark Klett, Mayme Kratz, Carrie Marill, Matthew Moore, Marie Navarre, Doug and Mike Starn, Anthony Velasquez and Masao Yamamoto.
There is no fee to attend the opening reception. For more information, visit www.lisasettegallery.com.
Photos courtesy of Lisa Sette Gallery.
This story was updated 6/12/14.
Some news items don’t need translation. That’s why DPJ launched the From the Wire series, so we could serve the destinations here by posting information and announcements – in their own words.
1950’s Al Beadle Building the Site for Adaptive Reuse Concept on Central Ave.
UPDATE – location pictured below.
Upward Projects, a group of locally-focused restaurateurs headed by Craig & Kris DeMarco and Lauren & Wyatt Bailey, will open a brand new restaurant concept in the North Central* Phoenix neighborhood in the Fall/Winter of 2012. The location, a historically relevant Al Beadle building located on the Southwest corner of Central Avenue and West Oregon Avenue (5210 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, 85013), will encompass 3,000 square feet of space that originally housed the iconic First Federal Savings & Loan Bank. Architecture and design will be a joint effort executed by Shepley Bulfinch and Upward Projects, with a priority placed on preserving the original architecture and keeping the structural integrity in-tact.
As the plans are being drawn up and the idea boards are pinned with ideas, Upward Projects is working hard to preserve the legacy of the architect that helped create the magic. “The coolest part of this process has been meeting Nancy Beadle, Al’s wife. We feel immense pressure to show each project the justice it deserves, so sharing our vision with her has been unbelievably important to us,” Kris DeMarco says.
The team has been traveling extensively, gathering ideas and inspirations from dynamic communities around the world. “North Central Phoenix is one of the most vibrant, neighborhood-centric pockets around, and it’s still accessible to nearly everyone. Since we opened Postino Central in 2009, and subsequently Windsor & Churn in 2011, we’ve had a chance to connect with the people that live, work and play in the area and they are electrifying. The North Central neighbors have provided immense support over the years, and we are committed to this community,” says Lauren Bailey.
Upward Projects also worked in conjunction with Local First Arizona to put the project through the Adaptive Reuse Process, a City of Phoenix-sanctioned policy that encourages density in the Phoenix area. Through this process, a focus is placed on decreasing building permit fees for infill projects that are closer to the city center light rail and bicycle routes, with a goal of creating more creative spaces for independent businesses to thrive in the heart of historic Phoenix.
When the project opens in the latter part of 2012, 50-60 additional jobs will be created along with the rebirth of an iconic building that will serve the residents that surround. For more information on Upward Projects, visit www.upwardprojects.com
*Some refer to this area as Uptown.
Photo courtesy of Upward Projects.
Like many Phoenicians, Alison and Matthew King didn’t fully realize what treasures their hometown possessed until they left the Valley to attend Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. While in New York, their education submerged them in the art and architecture of the city, and mid-century modern design through such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art. When they returned to Phoenix in 1999, not only did they come home to a city that had changed dramatically during their absence through much of the 1990s, but they also returned with an enhanced appreciation for the architectural heritage of the Valley.
According to Alison, “Our body of commercial, religious, civic, educational and residential architecture rivals that of any large modern city in the world.” Alas, much of this heritage is spread throughout the Valley, and often hidden through veils of stucco and decades of neglect. As a result, the couple engaged on aof sorts, tracking down significant houses and buildings, oftentimes based on nothing more than a rumor or a hunch.
When the Kings first arrived back in Phoenix, the only online outlet for mid-century enthusiasts was a small but active discussion board hosted by Dwell magazine. This board initially enabled Alison and Matthew to connect with other mid-century modern enthusiasts in the Valley. Being an early Web enthusiast, Alison started an online inventory of the research and photographs collected during these scavenger hunts. Soon, people started discovering the site, and the Modern Phoenix community found a new home. The site, ModernPhoenix.net, launched in 2003.
The inaugural home tour took place in 2005 to give this growing community of mid-century enthusiasts an interactive view into restored mid-century homes. It was a small affair, with about 100 people visiting five houses in the same block in Ralph Haver’s Windemere neighborhood. The tour was inspired by discussion on the nascent Modern Phoenix discussion board, and the generosity of Shawn and Tiffany Danley, who offered to open their home to visitors even though they were still in the middle of renovations.
The second tour, in 2006, was held in Paradise Gardens. It was an early turning point for Modern Phoenix. Lesley Oliver, the Marketing & Public Relations Manager for the Scottsdale Museum of Modern Art (SMoCA), attended this tour and was “blown away” at the level of effort and dedication put forth by the Kings. Lesley “couldn’t keep her mouth shut about the tour and sang every praise imaginable for Alison and Matthew.” Her enthusiasm soon convinced SMoCA’s curators that the home tour was a perfect fit for the museum, given its focus on architecture and design. SMoCA came on board as an event partner for the third tour. The museum has been a partner ever since, providing space for the expo and lectures, as well as coordinating ticket sales.
This year, Modern Phoenix is returning to Paradise Valley for its sixth annual tour on April 11. In the intervening years, the home tour has grown to 700 participants and a dozen homes. It has become a nationally recognized tour, with people traveling from across the U.S. to take part.
In addition, there is free a Modern Phoenix Expo on April 10. This full-fledged exposition features locally owned businesses that cater to the modern aesthetic and a roster of prominent speakers discussing the Valley’s endangered pool of world-class mid-century modern architecture. Alison will speak on the work of architectural partners Ralph Haver and Jimmie Nunn. Ned Sawyer, a contemporary of Al Beadle, will speak about his apprenticeship under Beadle and his own modernist architecture since. David Tyda of EATERAZ (as well as Desert Living magazine) will host his annual panel of contemporary architects and designers working in the modernist spirit, and historian and Downtown denizen Donna Reiner will share her extensive research and imagery documenting Phoenix’s impressive collection of modern-era bank architecture.
Perhaps most important, the home tour celebrates community. Alison explains:
“What really keeps me going is the opportunity to tour amazing homes and meet remarkable people who get it. When I see happy faces on our annual tour day, it fills me with such satisfaction that the appreciation is growing. Our people are doers, not lookers. I know that the ripple effect will catalyze change for the better. We have seen change magnify the last few years and many attribute it to the activism they’ve encountered on ModernPhoenix.net.”
Yes, the home tour and expo take place outside even the most generous definition of Downtown Phoenix. However, these events are of interest to DPJ readers because this community — like our readership — is based on far more than geography. It extends to all people interested in preserving the history and architecture of our recent past, much of which is included in and around Downtown.
If you would like to experience this year’s tour, you need to act fast. The tour sells out early each year — a testament to the passion of the Modern Phoenix community. At the time of publishing, there are less than 200 tickets remaining. These will go quick! If you can’t get tickets to the tour, you can always attend the expo or one of the many related events listed on the Modern Phoenix week itinerary.
For more information on the Modern Phoenix Home Tour or ModernPhoenix.net, please contact Alison King by email or at 602.923.9719.
Pictured below are some of the homes featured in this year’s tour.
The beginning of April signifies many things for Phoenicians: It’s the last month before the weather gets mind-meltingly hot, baseball season is cranking up and Modern Phoenix Week must be about to begin.
The week-long celebration of all things mid-century modern in the Valley always culminates with a tour of a dozen or so stunning Valley homes in a modernist-preserved neighborhood. But, before the home tour, which falls on April 11 this year, there are plenty of events all over the Valley to unveil the modernist within.
First Friday is the unofficial kick-off, with Phoenix Metro Retro hosting an Al Beadle-themed night of art and conversation. Beadle is the quintessential mid-century Valley architect, and though his buildings dot Midtown, Uptown, North Central and points beyond (including a wacky motel in Gila Bend), this show will focus on the ill-fated Safari Hotel, which once stood across the street from today’s ever-expanding Scottsdale Fashion Square. Vintage photographs and some cool Safari-themed swag will be on hand, as well as selected maquettes for steel sculpture designed by Beadle himself.
New artwork by Modern Phoenix founder Alison King will also line the walls, and Heidi Abrahamson’s stunning silversmith jewelry will be on hand as well.
Phoenix Metro Retro is located at 708 W. Hazelwood St. in Melrose (light rail station at 7th Ave/Camelback) — 602.279.0702. The show runs from 6-9 p.m.