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More of the Arizona Biltmore

March 7, 2012
by Kelly

You may have noticed that I didn’t get around to posting yesterday. Well, that’s because I got caught up in dealing with yet more hacker-related issues and wasn’t able to post. (Argh.) But I think everything is resolved for real this time and my site is once again safe.

So back to sharing with you what I really wanted to share, and that was more about our recent trip to Arizona. I already shared a little bit, by giving you a peak into our room at the Arizona Biltmore. But I really would not be doing the Biltmore justice if I just left it at that, because it’s simply too interesting of a place from a design and architectural vantage point. And let’s face it, that stuff kind of fascinates me…

My first visit to the Arizona Biltmore was when I was still in design school and in the midst of taking an architectural history class. So I was well primed to appreciate the beauty and architecture of the resort. On my most recent trip, I was happy to find myself just as fascinated and very much enjoyed being able to spend quite a bit of time wandering the grounds and checking out the design and architecture in greater detail.

I only wish I had known about the architectural history tours that the Arizona Biltmore offers—apparently every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10 am—as I would have loved to hear more about their own version its storied architectural history (which is highly debated.) Plus, the resort has been renovated many times since its original opening in 1929, so it would have been interesting to learn exactly what details are part of the original design and what has been added and changed over the years.

The resort’s history is highly debated because the original design was a collaboration of the minds of Albert Chase McArthur (the architect of record) and the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright—and who is truly responsible for what is at the heart of the debate. Unquestioned is the fact that McArthur had worked under Wright for a few years in Chicago, and brought in his former mentor as a consultant on the project to work on overseeing the construction of one of the key design elements that is woven throughout the design of the resort—the “Biltmore Block.” The concept of a textile block was originally Wright’s, and having successfully executed it on former projects, McArthur brought Wright in to see that his own more rectangular version could be successfully executed as the countless structural pieces that would compose the buildings’ interiors and exteriors.

But that’s where the clarity of Wright’s contributions to the design of the resort end, and the rest of his influence remains largely unknown and up for debate. I’ve heard that Wright always credited McArthur for the full design of the hotel and resort, but with such strong Wrightian moves in the design like the directional use of line, preference for indigenous material, and windows that wrap corners, its easy to see how some would question whether Wright’s consulting work was really limited to the element of the block.

Regardless, the hotel certainly plays up the Wrightian influence in its design to the max, infusing references to Wright throughout the resort—thus fueling the debate and adding to the confusion of who the responsible architect might be. But, I personal think its amusing and found that my favorite part this time was the hotel’s main restaurant, which happens to be part of this “up-played influence” being aptly named Wright’s Restaurant.

But regardless of who all the beautiful design details are attributed too, the Biltmore is an amazing example of a former era of architecture being both preserved and ever slightly altered to accommodate the new nuances of today’s lifestyle. Living history at its finest. And after this visit, I think I might be even more obsessed with the place than I was before.


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