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Dispatch from the DOCOMOMO US National Symposium in Phoenix

April 18, 2017

A contingent of DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State members have returned from the Arizona desert where DOCOMOMO US hosted its fifth annual symposium. With the theme “Modernism and Climate,” this year’s gathering explored creative strategies for designing in a desert environment and featured an expanded itinerary by coinciding with the annual Modern Phoenix Week. By all accounts, it was an unforgettable weekend.

Highlights included an opening reception at the W.A. Sarmiento-designed Phoenix Financial Center (1963), which was recently restored by the architecture firm Shepley Bulfinch (a project recipient of a DOCOMOMO US Modernism in America citation in 2016); a full day of lectures on the beautiful WPA-era campus of Phoenix College; and a late afternoon tour and lecture at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West (1937), complete with a sunset cocktail reception. Participants also ventured 70 miles north of Phoenix for a day-long immersion in the “urban laboratory” of Arcosanti, the brainchild of Paolo Soleri, reflecting on issues of housing, community, and of course, concrete. Back in Phoenix, an array of engaging tours explored the Superlite Block Manufacturing Plant, “Mesa neon by night,” and midcentury banks and churches. Throughout the weekend, the Modern legacies of regional masters Al Beadle, Ralph Haver, Fred Guirey, and Mel Ensign were brought to the fore.

As with all DOCOMOMO symposia, it offered an incomparable deep-dive into Modern architecture, landscape, and design; an opportunity to gather with fellow preservationists and enthusiasts from all over, and together celebrate our nation’s rich design legacy.
– Meredith Arms Bzdak, PhD

Images from top:
Conference brochure with Al Beadle’s White Gates house (1954) beyond; FLW’s Taliesin West at dusk; standing under Paolo Soleri’s Vaults (1971) at Arcosanti; FLW’s David & Gladys Wright House (1952), saved from the wrecking ball in 2012; Al Beadle’s Driggs House (1970) in Paradise Valley. Photos by John Shreve Arbuckle and Meredith Arms Bzdak.