The Cochise/Geronimo Clubhouse and Desert Mountain’s Architecture: Creating a Memorable and Enduring Sense of Place

The Anderson/Bacon Goals
Every client, including Lyle Anderson, naturally tries to imagine their architectural project in terms of its appearance or ‘style,’ and there are a great many temptations and short-term advantages to reprising previous successes by producing some variation of an earlier and successful stylistic theme – in our cases, The Boulders and Scottsdale Princess for me, and Desert Highlands, for Lyle. Embarking on the design of Desert Mountain, Lyle and I immediately rejected the idea of variations-on-a-theme. My ambition with which he immediately concurred was to create a distinctive and memorable sense of place at Desert Mountain that would endure the ever-changing whims of architectural fashion. Lyle’s overarching goal, beyond whatever its appearance might be, was that the Cochise/Geronimo Clubhouse demonstrate and establish for Desert Mountain an uncompromised level of quality that would place this community at the very pinnacle of the world’s luxury golf communities.

Selling the Idea of Principles over Style
Few people are willing or able to conceptualize architecture without imagining some style.
To overcome the ephemeral nature of architectural fashion, I proposed to Lyle that our project’s appearance had to be guided by ‘principles’ and ‘values’ rather than by style. This sounded good in theory, but not surprisingly, I couldn’t describe what principles looked like, so understandably, Lyle was unable visualize them. To solve this, I first outlined for him the guiding principles and values I felt were germane to Desert Mountain. I then presented him with a chronological survey of architectural styles commonly associated with the American southwest: Indigenous Adobes, Mexican Haciendas, Spanish Colonial Estates, Western Ranches, and a few examples representing 20th Century modernism. For each of these vernacular styles I described how, and the degree to which, each of them challenged or manifest the principles important to our project.

“OK, he said when I finished, sounds good – so, what will it look like?” “I don’t know yet,” I said, as I drew an empty circle on the blank sheet of paper between us. I suggested, as I sketched irregularly jagged lines radiating from its center, that we would not be confined by the strictures of any one style but would capture the most compelling aspects of each style and craft something yet unseen. “So, how do we describe it?” he asked. Again, I said, “I don’t know that either…let’s call it site sculpture for now.” I admire his guts. It has since become known as “Desert Mountain” style.