WORDS BY PAULINE BRETTELL
- June 13, 2023
The historic Phoenix resort, Arizona Biltmore has opened the doors on its property-wide refresh taken on by an impressive team of respected designers and consultants – all honouring the property’s legacy while including contemporary touches for a new era…
Built almost a century ago, Arizona Biltmore is known as one of the grandest resorts of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Inspired by the innovative geometric designs of his mentor and Arizona Biltmore’s consulting architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Chase McArthur built the resort to reflect its desert surroundings. In recent years, the iconic property has been restored to its former glory by a team of respected designers and consultants from Virserius Studio, PHX Architecture, Serving the Nation, Inc., Burton Studio and Wimberly Interiors.
“We sought to revitalise the property, while preserving its iconic legacy,” explained Therese Virserius of Virserius Studio. “Our aim was to honour the remarkable work of Wright and McArthur, while simultaneously modernising and enhancing the luxurious guest experience for a new era.”
“Rather than merely replicating the original structure, we sought to pay homage to these renowned architects by reimagining their vision using modern methods and materials while remaining faithful to their timeless design principles,” added Erik Peterson, founder of PHX Architecture.
In keeping with the property’s architectural style, the structural aesthetic remains true to Wright’s flowing ‘textile block’ design, evident in the horizontal lines, handmade craftsmanship and open-plan layout strewn with custom facades and materials like fine porcelain, ornate stained glass and mosaics. The restoration itself included McArthur and Wright’s original ‘Biltmore Blocks’, created from desert sand onsite and designed with interlocking lines to form a pattern across the building’s facade. The 34 different arrays of blocks are arranged to create a sense of movement and rhythm resembling notes on a musical scale.
The team replaced 6,000 of the blocks requiring repair by using the same techniques and materials as the original blocks, accompanied by hand-embroidered furniture built in the spirit of the traditional design and a replating of the eponymous gold-leaf ceiling in the Gold Room. Modern upgrades were mindfully navigated to maintain historical integrity, including the seamless implementation of technology throughout the main building and updates to rooftop air conditioning units. In keeping with Arizona Biltmore’s stunning surroundings, Burton Studio integrated desert-inspired landscaping throughout the property, complementing Frank Lloyd Wright’s beloved Sprite statues as well as the new ‘Treasures of Heaven’ art installation.
The revamped spaces include two pools for adult and family visitors, standalone cottages that combine the resort’s chic aesthetic with plush amenities, dining venues clad in natural textures and the all-new Tierra Luna Spa and Sol Garden – a holistic wellness experience rooted in the cosmos and Earth’s four elements.
The resort’s cottages have been magnificently refreshed with the intention of creating a home-like ambiance. Each cottage houses an inviting living room, awash in earthy colours and framed by woods and stucco walls, along with bespoke furniture pieces and lighting by Virserius Studio and Imaggo Production. Additional repairs included the iconic stained glass and rooftop patios. From each guestroom, a lush corridor leads to the outdoor terrace with a firepit and dazzling mountain views. Live plants are maintained by a self-planting trough that cools down the space. The tailored elements seamlessly combine with Wright’s signature concrete patterns contrasted by woods and glass, providing both transparency and privacy.
At the heart of the resort, the Spire Bar and Event Lawn offers magnificent views of Piestewa Peak and an alfresco space canopied by a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired structure, all supported by its eponymous spire at the centre. A colourful Spanish mosaic wraps around the bar, topped with a ramada decorated in a geometric flower in backlit glass. Each evening, the setting sun upon the spire creates an elegant light show, and adjacent trees’ glow changes from red to purple. Curved banquettes distinguished by custom tiles and fire pits are complemented by the ‘Luxe Twist’, a bespoke art installation clad in multi-coloured lights, created by New York-based artist Rob de Oude.
Reflecting the resort’s storied past while incorporating contemporary touches, the Wright Bar’s design utilises space and light for a stunning atmosphere, with stunning contrasts of richly coloured furniture against the Biltmore Blocks. Luxurious peacock feather tiles adorn the bar in shades of teal and midnight blue and modular sofas are strategically positioned to encourage socialisation and provide flexible seating arrangements. The bar’s Art Deco geometric patterns use opulent tones to create additional depth and layering, with details such as hand-picked stones and custom leather-wrapped handrails. The ceiling pattern is a subtle nod to Wright’s famous geometric designs, incorporating a monochromatic palette to complement the overall design of the space.
The recently opened Tierra Luna Spa and Sol Garden houses 12 treatment rooms and a range of therapies inspired by the surrounding Sonoran Desert. The spa’s 2,600 square metres of space pays tribute to both the earth and the moon and offers a unique array of experiences including the mud and crystal bar and onsite astrology readings. Amenities such as indoor/outdoor treatment rooms, lounge, steam showers, bathtubs, curated library and plush seating display a desert-chic aesthetic The Sol Garden offers stunning mountain views and ocotillo coves and includes a cold plunge pool, hot tub, invigorating rain shower and a wellness bar that serves immune-boosting cocktails and zero-proof refreshments for a transformative experience.
Set behind the Spire Bar and reserved for adults, the stylish Saguaro Pool is guarded by its namesake, a majestic 140-year-old cactus named ‘Lloyd’ that lies just beyond the pool gates. Chic, air-conditioned cabanas, each with a geometric design back wall flanked by lush living walls, line a side of the pool. Dotting the pool deck outfitted with Spanish titles, are large, vibrant mosaic ‘pebbles’ by Italian manufacturer Bisazza.
The reimagined Paradise Pool for families now features a triple water slide aptly named ‘The Twist’, along with a delightful splash pad. Before taking the exhilarating ride down its Wright-like curves, circles and spirals, stunning desert views are visible from the peak of the slide. Luxurious, air-conditioned private cabanas can be found just steps away from the Paradise Pool, with a swim-up bar and poolside dining available for refreshments.
Main image credit: Arizona Biltmore Waldorf Astoria