HMH took a much needed break to get inspired by the creativity, beauty, and tranquility in the breathtaking landscapes of Arizona. From stunning desert vistas to architectural marvels, our trip was filled with unforgettable experiences.

Two prominent names hail from Arizona: Taliesin, a Welch word that means “shining brow,” and Cosanti, a manufactured term that means “the thing before.” Both words were coined by two forward-thinking architects, artists and dreamers who made Scottsdale, Arizona, the center of their creative endeavors.

When we visited Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright‘s home and school, and Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri‘s home and studio, we were surprised to learn that Soleri had been a student of Wright. Despite some similarities, they differed in their architectural styles. Both lived long lives, defying conventional norms in their fields, excelling in various media, and advocating for the use of local materials and desert integration in construction. However, Wright favored straight lines and sharp angles, while Soleri’s designs embraced curves and domes.

We began with Arcosanti, the experimental community about 70 miles north of Phoenix. Built in the 1970s by Italian architect Paolo Soleri, this radial community began as a prototype arcology–a compact urban form intended to be self-sufficient and self-contained. The term arcology, coined by Soleri, is a portmanteau of architecture and ecology, now most often realized in sci-fi narratives.

To understand Arcosanti, you must experience it. This arcology was a blueprint for a potential new way of living. It was sustainability decades before it became a buzz word. This space was intended for living, farming, entertaining, and working, all within proximity of one another, thus eliminating the need for motorized vehicles, in turn minimizing the human impact on the environment. Soleri began to implement his theoretical vision by erecting Arcosanti and in many ways, his dreams are still being actualized by the current residents and volunteers living inside and around this desert commune.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the famous Soleri windbells crafted and sold at Arcosanti, so beautiful that most of us could not pass up the opportunity to take one home. Sales of these bells comprise a major portion of the financing at Arcosanti.

Day two, we visited Taliesin West, situated on the southern slope of the McDowell Range overlooking the valley. Taliesin West was a living studio + workshop, where apprentice architects lived and worked on the property. Many built make-shift shelters, or lived in tents, all across the property’s desert landscape.

Wright’s wood, stone and cement buildings turned the architectural approach of the Victorian era on its head, making clean lines and utility the priority. Wright’s designs were often controlling, as seen in the living room. Built-in benches along the walls directed guests to sit where he desired and to gaze at his chosen focal points. He allotted minimal wall space for art display, asserting that his architecture was the sole artistic expression required.

And, well….let’s just say there may have been a few instances where we found ourselves admiring the architecture of some FLW properties up close. However, for the full scoop and a glimpse of those snapshots, you’ll have to inquire in person. It’s a tale best shared face to face.

Arizona’s got more to offer than just Taliesin and Cosanti. We also checked out the Arizona Botanic Gardens and the iconic Biltmore. The gardens were a breath of fresh air, literally! Walking among the cacti and desert flora was a nice change of pace. And the Biltmore? Talk about fancy! It’s like stepping into a whole other world with its grand architecture and lush surroundings.

During our visit, we headquartered at the Arcadia Beach Club, a property that oozes a sense that all is right with the world. The clean, mid-century vibe tends to de-clutter the mind, and the lawn dotted with oversized hammocks, firepits and the sparkling pool commanded us to slow down.