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A Blueprint for Arizona Travel, With Architecture the Focus

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You might not readily associate the state of Arizona with architectural greatness, even if you have a fairly good grasp on the subject. But here’s the happy surprise: this southwestern state actually has a very well rounded list of buildings, both old and new, worth pondering, whether your taste runs toward the modern or the historic.

When planning your Arizona travel with architecture the focus, a good place to start is the beginning, chronologically speaking, with the ancient Native Americans. Relatively close to the Phoenix area find Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park, where visitors can get a glimpse of Salado building styles over seven centuries old. If you’re up Sedona way, don’t miss Tuzigoot National Monument, which, though mostly in ruins, offers additional perspective on traditional building approaches in the region.

Fast forward several hundred years and the face of building design met change with the coming of the Spaniards. Still in use today, the Mission San Xavier del Bac provides a peek at the merger of ancient and old, which stands in contrast to the style that would emerge by the early 19th-century as seen at places like El Tovar in Grand Canyon National Park or at Sahuaro Ranch, part of a historic park area in Glendale.

Even if this is all new, it’s likely you’ve heard of Frank Lloyd Wright, the famed architect who came to make a winter home in the Sonoran desert. You can take a tour of his seasonal retreat, Taliesan West, year-round for an introduction to the man and his work, but there’s also a church and hotel to see in Phoenix, as well as several private residences, though you might be only able to get a quick glimpse of these from the road. And you’ll definitely want to leave time for a detour north of Phoenix to the experimental town of Arcosanti, designed by architect Paolo Soleri as a prototype for an urban approach that marries ecologically-friendly ways with architecture (Cosanti, Soleri’s residence and studio, is in Scottsdale and also welcomes visitors). And finally, come up to date with a trip to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, part of it a retrofit of an old cineplex designed by well-known local architect, Will Bruder.

So no, time travel still isn’t possible, but without much effort you can find a way to dovetail your Arizona travel with over 700 years of building history: how’s that for a vacation blueprint?

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