The Boulders Resort: My First Native Desert Opportunity

In the early 1980s after about fifteen years of doing predominantly urban architectural design and engineering, I was asked by Rusty Lyon of Westcor Development, if I would like to design a boutique resort in his Boulders development, across Scottsdale Road east of his home in Carefree. (Sorry, you’ll have to read my memoirs to get the details of how this came about.) Recalling my earlier solution to the chapel, I told him that I had a very strong idea of what should be done there and why; declaring that, if he liked it, I was his man. We set a date for my presentation immediately following the New Year’s holiday of 1982, and as I unrolled my intentionally cryptic and unlabeled drawings in front of Rusty and his partners, I remember once again reciting the exact same contextual design rationale I had presented to the chapel jury in college.

Context and Humanism
I had believed since childhood that context was important, but it wasn’t until this meeting that the ethos and architectural principles of “minimum visual impact” were confirmed to be sensible, marketable, and commercially viable. Though the market appeal of this unusual and highly context-driven design was validated by the Boulder’s success, there were other more elusive factors affecting the public’s warm response to this property. Factors that I intuitively understood but didn’t fully appreciate at the time, I’ve now come to know as the rudiments of architectural humanism; We’ll dig into the constituent values and principles of humanism after quickly introducing two other architecturally diverse examples.