Utah Style and Design

Photo Friday: South for the Winter

January 11, 2019

Many are loving the snow and are busy tuning up their gear to spend time outside, but I am catering this week to those with more avian tendencies, those who see the short days, gray skies, and frozen water as inspiration to escape south.

This week I am featuring desert-inspired, Arizona architecture from the 15 to 20 years ago. It is an interesting period of design, and I think significant to the movement toward modernism and sustainable construction that we have seen since. It was a time of experimenting with materials, designing for the climate, and trying new forms. The Tucson home shown above and directly below is designed by architect Rick Joy and was very early rammed earth construction.

The concrete hallway, seemingly random windows, and lack of base and case moldings were anything but mainstream at the time of construction. During the same period of time in North America, the accepted home deign was a two story dramatic entry, wall-to-wall carpeting, and traditional detailing and ornate trim.

Phoenix architect Wendell Burnette demonstrates how problem-solving difficult situations leads to highly creative solutions with this curved masonry walled home. The lot was shallow, and the walled approach offers both sound attenuation and privacy from the short setback from the street.

The rear of the lot was similarly constrained by the steep hill, but the design managed a pool and sheltered patio space.

The design maintained privacy while providing ample daylight and controlled heat gain through carefully oriented windows. While appearing very current, what gives its age away are the homeowners’ collection of houseplants. However, I understand that houseplants are staging a design comeback.

Always dedicated to modernism, architect Michael P. Johnson designed this cantilevered home with steel beams and concrete to soar the home over a steep rocky building site on a Phoenix hillside.

Inside, he experimented with materials new to the market at the time.

Not only is the home elevated above the site, but the steel and concrete also supports extensive patio space and a pool. The homeowner has the benefit of living near the city center, but really not exposed to close urban contact.

I had the feeling when I photographed the Arizona architecture by these design pioneers that I was seeing the early beginnings of something important. It is only in retrospect that I can appreciate how their design approaches and innovations have become so accepted nationwide.

As for the photos, these were made on film before digital cameras and processing. Shooting in the desert, one is very aware of the technical limitations of film, primarily in its difficulties handling contrast. Then, almost all desert home photography benefited by shooting just after dawn.

Want to see more Photo Friday? See previous galleries here. 

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Scot Zimmerman
Architectural photographer Scot Zimmerman has been photographing exteriors and interiors of homes, and commercial and public buildings across the United States for over 37 years. He is the principal photographer of eight books; over 40 periodicals have featured his work; and 11 museums have exhibited his photos. He’s fond of adventuring in the Southern Utah desert. Follow his work on Instagram: @scot.zimmerman

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