Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Architectural Record magazine reports on "Razing Arizona: Phoenix Modern Threatened"

[Source: David M. Brown, Architectural Record] -- If the fate of its mid-century bank buildings is any indication, Phoenix is withdrawing valuable architectural assets from its skyline to make way for growth in the nation’s sixth-largest city. Already lost are two celebrated neighborhood bank branches razed earlier this year: the Ed Varney-designed First Federal Savings branch, and the geodesic-dome Valley National Bank, in nearby Tempe, designed by Weaver & Drover, now called DWL. Dating to the early 1960s, they expressed Phoenix’s post-war commitment to regional architectural. In particular, the Valley National was the brainchild of longtime bank president Walter Bimson, an arts patron and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright. Even in a city where the automobile drove development, Bimson initially dismissed drive-up windows and preferred that customers meet with tellers face-to-face—he later came around.

Preservationists worry that another former Valley National branch, now occupied by Chase Bank, could be threatened. Located in the upscale Arcadia neighborhood, this 1967-vintage building is often mistaken for a work by Wright. The building’s precast mushroom columns, view windows, and the careful interweaving of modern materials with hand-selected local rocks are in fact Wright-inspired touches by Weaver & Drover project architect Frank M. Henry, who still teaches at Taliesin West. The 4.7-acre Chase site includes the 9,000-squre-foot bank, a parking lot, and a greenbelt park that the last to buffer commercial and residential uses in Arcadia. But developer Opus West has proposed replacing the greenbelt and some of the parking lot with a complex of condominiums, restaurants, and retail space. “Our plans call for a design that is appropriate in today’s development market and preserves the bank branch,” says Jeff Roberts, the firm’s vice president of real estate development. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]