Art + Architecture Tour 2018

My wife, Martha, and I captured the following images during the 2018 edition of the “Art + Architecture Tour” featuring Wendell Burnette, benefiting the ASU Art Museum.

On Saturday, April 21st, we toured six – yes six – Wendell Burnette-designed spaces, deliciously punctuated by lunch at SOI 4 Bangkok Eatery. I can safely say this was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had since becoming full-time residents!

We began the day by gathering at For The People to enjoy locally-sourced coffee and pastry, compliments of Kream Coffee and For The People, before meandering to the back of the building where we officially kicked off the tour inside the studio space of Wendell Burnette Architects with over forty other architecture enthusiasts!

The tour began at 10:00 AM – the group gathered inside the studio, (which was filled with natural light from above), where every square inch of wall space and table space contained models, images and artifacts related to projects, both past and present.

Wendell began by describing the path that led him to architecture, (a journey which began as a young child), and, eventually, here to Arizona.

We learned about his time apprenticing at Taliesin/Taliesin West with the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, his return east, and back to Arizona to join Will Bruder’s studio while the Phoenix Central Library was being designed and built in the early/mid-1990’s. It was while the library was being designed and built that Wendell conceived the basic theme for his residence, and began building it at night and on weekends…

This very special home was the second stop on the tour!

As we made our way back onto the bus and began to make our way across town to our third stop, I continued to marvel at the inventiveness of Wendell’s remarkable residence, delicately rising from a narrow slice of the desert in Sunnyslope.

Our next stop was the studio of David Michael Miller, sited on a narrow, (50′ wide), parcel steps away from one of our favorite restaurants, Arcadia Farms Cafe. Wendell set the context for what we were about to see as the group gathered in front of the building, then we made our way inside.

We’ve walked and/or driven by this stunning building for decades, yet we’ve never seen the interior. Simply said, the level of detailing is astounding. Mortar joints contain plexiglass panels with polished edges, capturing and refracting sunlight into the building. Upstairs, reference material is celebrated as art on a series of sculptural shelves anchoring the center of the space while mirrored glass panels add visual interest to the exterior while illuminating portions of the interior in subtle – and surprising – ways. Inventive touches were evident inside and out – even the enclosure surrounding the refuse/recycling containers revealed a clever design detail to comply with City of Scottsdale access requirements!

The next order of business was lunch. …and not just any lunch, but lunch at SOI 4 Bangkok Eatery! While Martha and I have delighted in many, many meals at this highly-regarded restaurant, we were not aware of the remarkable backstory linking Wendell with chef/owners, Dannie and Kin Lum. Yes, we knew Wendell had designed the restaurant, but we didn’t know anything about how it all came together back in 2010.

It was an incredible meal – scrumptious dish after dish emerged from the kitchen – while everyone joined in spirited conversation. As our time at SOI 4 drew to a close, Wendell shared the story of how he met the Lum’s, how the design for the space came together seemingly – emphasis on seemingly – overnight, and how, after only five months of construction, the doors of SOI 4 Bangkok Eatery opened to rave reviews!

We love this image posted by Brittany Corrales of the ASU Art Museum!While we settled in for the drive north to Cave Creek, the location of our fifth stop of the day, Martha and I got to spend time chatting with Wendell about each of the spaces we’d experienced up to this point – his studio, his home, David Michael Miller’s studio, and, of course, the restaurant. While we could see Wendell’s imprint – his “design vocabulary” – all were refreshingly unique and ideally-suited to their location and purpose.

Forty-five minutes later, we found ourselves climbing into a smaller shuttle to make our way to our fifth stop, the Meredith Residence, a yet-to-be-published project that’s less than a year old. Since the home is about to appear in a widely-respected architectural publication, Wendell requested everyone refrain from taking photographs while there.

This spectacular home is sited on a five acre parcel to the west of Continental Mountain, happily occupied by a family of four, three Rhodesian Ridgebacks, a cat, (apparently the queen of the house), numerous birds and two Koi ponds! …oh, and the identical twin of my turntable, complete with custom-made acrylic dust cover, (just like mine)… I could move in tomorrow! 🙂

The choice of materials, their application and the overall scale of the structure come together beautifully – this house definitely leaves an impression! As the sun began to slowly sink in the western sky, small groups made their way down the steps leading back to the shuttle and boarded the tour bus for a short ride to our final destination, a residence known as the Dialogue House.

The Dialogue House has been on my “bucket list” of homes I’ve known about but never had the chance to visit – at least until today – so needless to say, I was super-excited about our final stop! We were warmly-welcomed by the owners, a family who have lovingly restored this signature piece of residential architecture, while making it their very own.

Wendell gathered the group out at the edge of the property where the driveway met the street, (also where the walkway leads visitors toward the house), and once again set context for what we were about to experience. This structure is comprised of two volumes, one devoted to the living/sleeping spaces and one enclosing the swimming pool, (pool is pushed to the southern edge of the property). One volume is lifted off the desert – literally hovering over it – to celebrate the view of the city skyline, while the other volume frames a view of only the sky above with a narrow incision for the stairs leading back to the house itself.

We gathered inside for final thoughts from Wendell, the owners and Miki Garcia, (Director of the ASU Art Museum), then made our way out onto the balcony for a group photograph by Daniel Cifuentes – a perfect conclusion to our time there…The trip back to Wendell’s studio was over within minutes – in fact, we pulled into the parking lot at exactly 7:30 PM! Our delirious group tumbled off the tour bus, pausing to individually express their sincere gratitude to the volunteers and staff from the ASU Art Museum who helped out all day long.

I’m quite confident Martha and I will fondly reflect on this experience for years to come.

In closing, a heartfelt “thank you!” to Wendell Burnette Architects and to the volunteers/staff from the ASU Art Museum for putting together such an enriching event!

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