Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Waves, Wine & Warmth (2018)

Exploring Phoenix

I woke up a bit too early this morning and ended up having my complimentary breakfast around 0715. The city was already basking in bright sunshine from a clear blue sky. There was no need to pack today and so I managed to be on the road by 0815. Just as on arrival in Phoenix, I again experienced severe traffic congestion, this time on the 101 Loop road. Regular readers may recall that a notable feature of the Roaming the Rust Belt trip (in late 2017) was a kind of mini-pilgrimage to see some of the best work of renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Bruce and I visited four of his properties on that trip, two in the state of New York and two in Pennsylvania. My first objective today was to clock up another FLW site. I arrived at Taliesin West, situated in Scottsdale, around 0910 and was delighted to be able to join the tour scheduled to start twenty minutes later.

A large group had assembled for tour guide Bruce - no, not that one! Rather than being commissioned by a client, Taliesin West was built in 1937 as Frank Lloyd Wright's own winter home, which he used until his death in 1959. The name comes directly from his summer home, Taliesin, which is in the state of Wisconsin. Another feature of Taliesin West is that it was - and still is - a working school of architecture, which issues degree-standard qualifications in its own right (i.e. not in association with a university).

As the tour progressed, I noted that there were many common themes with the properties that Bruce and I viewed the previous November. One of these themes was 'organic' architecture, which holds that buildings should rise out of the natural landscape, rather than being superimposed on it; another was the blurring of distinctions between outside and inside. There was a strong emphasis on living areas rather than what the architect referred to as "necessary spaces". I also recognised the deliberate and otherwise unnecessary use of low ceilings in corridors, in order to accentuate the additional headroom on entering the living areas. A new theme for this particular tour was the architect's love of music and his understanding of acoustics.


The 90-minute tour overran by fifteen minutes, but nobody minded. I moved on to my next stop, the Phoenix Art Museum. As I felt quite hungry on arrival shortly after noon, I made food my first priority and had a delicious lunch of fish tacos with mango salsa. Mmmm, I can still remember how good they were! The next obvious step was to have a look around the museum itself. It was interesting enough and overall I had an enjoyable visit. The only thing was that I couldn't help comparing my present location to the unexpectedly fabulous North Carolina Museum of Art that I had visited in November 2015, and I couldn't avoid the conclusion that NCMA was the winner of this imagined contest.

Next, I drove the short distance to the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza (home to a number of monuments and memorials) and the nearby Arizona State Capitol. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring this area in the strong, early-afternoon sunshine. I felt glad that I had managed to fit this in, as everything struck me as quite impressive, both externally and internally. The original State Capitol building is now entirely a museum. I made a self-guided tour and saw both the original House (with its fittings intact) and the original Senate chamber (with its fittings removed).

ABOVE: Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza 
BELOW: Arizona State Capitol 
ABOVE: The current Senate chamber,
which itself may not be long for this world

New buildings were contructed on either side of the State Capitol in 1960, to provide new homes for the two chambers. As the Senate was not in session, I was able to make a short visit to the present-day chamber and take photos. It seems slightly ironic that the two newer buildings are themselves now proving problematic, to the extent that plans call for them to be either substantially rebuilt in situ, or wholly replaced on an alternative site.

I drove back to base, experiencing yet more heavy congestion as I did so, arriving around 5pm. Relaxation for the rest of the day seemed wholly in order. This even extended to having a microwaved lobby-shop ready meal in my room for dinner. For such a disgracefully lazy choice, it turned out to be surprisingly tasty!

Wed 11 Apr

Distance driven: 80mi

AZ trip to date: 98mi

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