A Night of Neutra
docomomo_us Tour Day 2014
In October 2014 six local and national organizations partnered together to bring awareness to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's declaration of the Painted Desert Visitor Center complex by Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander as a National Treasure
. Take a virtual tour of the complex and read some backstory on the complex here first
, and find out why the unassuming modern architectural site is now a National Treasure
Since bringing 100 guests up to the Painted Desert for the day seemed unlikely, we brought the Painted Desert to Phoenix instead through vintage photography and short talks by subject matter experts who could convey the spirit of the site and encourage people to visit and experience the national park on their own. There weren't any Neutra buildings in Phoenix to pair the event with, so we selected the Phoenix Financial Center
by W.A. Sarmiento for the venue (pictured below), giving us two good reasons to celebrate.
The event was produced for docomomo_us Tour Day in partnership with architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch, who graciously hosted our group at their new renovated office in the South Rotunda at the Phoenix Financial Center.
Joe Herzog, one of the principals of Shepley Bulfinch, chatted with Ed Soltero from ASU.
John Jacquemart manned the door prize table. Prizes were donated by La Posada hotel, The Painted Desert, Arizona Preservation Foundation, Copenhagen furniture and Modern Phoenix.
Distinguished guests from the architecture community included Donald Beckett of the California firm Welton Beckett.
Will Bruder and Louise Roman caught up with Ned and Bev Sawyer, and with Alison King of Modern Phoenix.
Part of Shepley Bulfinch's restoration work included the removal and hand-cleaning of all the dangling cards, and replacement of the light fixtures above them with energy efficient LEDs. The bank vault has been transformed into a gallery.
Brad Traver discussed the past and future of the Painted Desert complex to guests Louise Roman and Will Bruder.
Literature distributed throughout the space brought guests up to speed on National Trust, Painted Desert and local efforts to preserve modernism.
AZ State Representative Demon Clinco (D) Tucson and members of the Tucson Preservation Foundation looked for inspiration in a monograph published by the Kings.
Michelle Dodds from the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and Kathryn Leonard from Logan Simpson Design/City of Phoenix HP Commission helped the event run smoothly at check-in. Chris Morris from the National Trust for Historic Preservation organized the entire affair.
After casual chat, guests ascended the iconic surfboard shaped stairs for the night's formal presentation.
Part of the program was to observe the changes in light as sun set over Phoenix. The transparent glass blushed pink at dusk then created kaleidoscopic reflections of the former Western Savings bank branch interior.
The crescent-shaped loft connects to the main Financial Center building through an arched tunnel,
positioned behind the projection screen.
Chris Morris, Field Director for the Los Angeles office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, kicked the program off.
Park Superintendant Brad Traver gave background on the Painted Desert Complex, its quirks and features, and why it was particularly important to him as a daily user of the space.
Ed Soltero AIA, LEED AP BD+C and Arizona State University Architect, spoke on Neutra and Desert Architecture, lending context for Neutra's quest for harmony with nature.
AZ State Representative (D) Demion Clinco
from the Tucson Preservation Foundation expressed the importance of preservation efforts such as the National Treasure program.
The Painted Desert, Modern Phoenix, Tucson Preservation Foundation, Shepley Bulfinch, The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Arizona Preservation Foundation all partnered to raise funds for restoration of the National Treasure through donations and a raffle. Our Night of Neutra marked just the start of some long-term attention on restoring the complex, and was lauded as one of the Ten Best Things cultural critic Becky Bartkowski saw in Metro Phoenix for 2014.