The Scottsdale Princess Resort and Conference Center: Applying Humanism to a Regional Vernacular

A Destination Resort Without a Beautiful Setting
Immediately following The Boulders Resort, in 1985 I was commissioned by the Eagle Partnership which was joint venture between Dick Johns, Al Specter and the City of Scottsdale, to plan and design a large resort and conference center hidden behind the flood control berm that parallels the north side of the Central Arizona Project Canal. In its inimitable fashion, the BLM unapologetically made no attempt to consider the visual or ecological impacts of its earthworks. There would be no distant views of the hotel and very limited near ground views from the hotel. In other words, this property was not located in a ‘visually fragile environment,’ so I reasoned, the design of this project needn’t be informed by the tenets of “minimal visual impact.” Unlike the contextualism behind the Boulders, the success of the Princess would depend almost exclusively on the principles and humanism.
By every measure, the Scottsdale Princess Resort and Conference Center is an enormous facility. Its sheer size demanded that very careful consideration be paid to every aspect of its human scale as its design resolved the many infrastructural demands of a small city.

Applying Principles and Values to Select and Tailor an Established Style
In the case of The Scottsdale Princess Resort and Conference Center, I was faced with the absence of any inspirational natural environment and had no neighboring structures to serve as context in the built environment. Since context would therefore not be a form-giver in this case, it seemed reasonable to emulate one of the Southwest’s many regional styles. The architecture of the southwest has emerged from several indigenous traditions. I chose to ‘stylize’ the rich vocabulary of Spanish Colonial architecture because, in Central Mexico, this tradition had been applied to large structures in settings of broad urban scope. By contrast, the restricted spans and limited palettes of Pueblo and Ranch styles, for example, don’t translate well into the dimensions required of a large conference center; whereas the rich vocabulary of materials, motifs, and ornament found in the mature Spanish Colonial lexicon could be applied to accommodate a wide variety of large scale functions while still enabling an intimacy of human scale by applying its rich palette of motif and detail.