Arizona dreamin’ – architecture

Architecture is not the first thing I think of when I think of Arizona, but I had a very nice surprise – and it wasn’t just that I was taken with the buildings, but the architects.

And I really didn’t think “architecture” – except for maybe nature’s hand – when we did that Grand Canyon trip. Architect Mary Colter designed several buildings in the park, including a Watchtower (providing an incredible panoramic view, as well as some amazing native art work), hotel and studio/shop.

In Sedona, there’s the Chapel of the Holy Cross, conceived and funded by Marguerite Bruswig Staude, herself a sculptor, and inspired by the Empire State Building in NYC.

Then there’s Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona home, as well as a forward-thinking, experimental and experiential architecture school.

The design was inspired by nature, Japanese art, geometric form (esp. triangles) and music.

Beautiful stuff. Up next, I think we need to talk about cacti.

Arizona dreamin’ – the great Grand Canyon road trip

This was my first view of the Grand Canyon, from a helicopter out of the Grand Canyon Airport, flown by a pilot from the south island of New Zealand named Simon:

Words can barely describe the feeling of hovering over this natural wonder of the world. The flight was about half an hour, flying over the widest gap between the south and north rims, with pre-recorded narration and Simon pointing out things as we went. We also had music, including Michael Buble’s recording of Come Fly With Me. On the last leg of the flight, it was Time of Your Life – and my breathlessness at the beauty of it all turned to weeping. Damn you, Green Day!

From there, the folks and I went into the park and proceeded along the east side of the south rim, stopping at all various lookout spots along the way. Spending the afternoon there, we witnessed the light and colour change from mid-day, the shadows and mist descending into the canyon as the afternoon got late.

We saw a few critters as we explored the canyon from the top: my dad saw a coyote, there were lots of ravens about (which my dad took to teasing, despite my warnings that they might decide to go all Alfred Hitchcock on him) and a small herd of deer crossing the road gave us pause on the way out.

The Imax movie (at the theatre in nearby Tusayan) was amazing – and not just for the views inside the canyon (as if you were flying down inside it), but for the  impressive stunt work by the actors portraying historical figures navigating the white water of the Colorado River in olde thyme wooden boats. A perfect bookend to the helicopter flight at the start of our journey there.

We stayed at the Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan, where my mum noted that the t.v. provided movie services, including those for “adult desires.” I don’t know about you – but I ain’t watching no porno with the parentals. Not that this was ever an issue – we watched the premiere of SMASH. This t.v. appeared to be possessed, as it somehow turned itself on while we were out at dinner, and twice in an hour after we went to bed. Most likely a remote malfunction from some other room, but spooky – not to mention annoying – nonetheless, so we unplugged it for the night.

The next day, we took the Oak Creek Canyon road into Sedona. You’ve likely seen photos of Sedona – it’s famous for the red rock (which is used today to create the dye for Dirt Shirts).

Like the Grand Canyon, these rocks were carved by nature – but in this case, you’d swear someone carved them on purpose. Rocks that looked like statues of thing like Madonna and child, an eagle’s head, Lucy from the Peanuts and an ancient sculpture of a Japanese man. Gorgeous!

From there, we travelled to Montezuma Castle, where human hands turned the caves of a cliff face into homes.

These dwellings were multiple stories high, housing multiple families – accessed outside and inside via ladders and hatches – and built in such a way as to keep the temperatures inside cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

I’ll leave it at that for today – and it occurred to me that a separate post on architecture might be cool. Up next: architect Mary Colter’s work at the Grand Canyon, The Church of the Holy Cross at Sedona and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona home and architecture school, Taliesin West.