An Architectural Tour of Scottsdale-Phoenix

Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix (Image: Arizona Biltmore)

Built in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix is known as the “Jewel of the Desert.”
(Image: Arizona Biltmore)

Along with the desert scenery and acclaimed golf courses, Scottsdale-Phoenix offers iconic Southwest architecture, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. Here, our top picks for a self-guided tour.


There’s so much to love about the ScottsdalePhoenix area—the stark, sun-scorched beauty of the desert expanses; the high-end boutiques, restaurants and galleries found in Scottsdale’s small downtown core; and the unique golf courses, defined by giant saguaros, arroyos, and massive Flintstones-like boulders.

I’m also a big fan of desert architecture. Arizona’s architectural heritage dates back to the pueblos and blanket designs of its earliest American Indian settlers, influences that inspire Southwest design to this day.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. (Image: Andrew Horne via Wikimedia Commons)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West.
(Image: Andrew Horne via Wikimedia Commons)

Another major influence is Frank Lloyd Wright, the legendary American architect, who left his mark on several buildings throughout the metropolitan area. Wright built his personal winter home, Taliesin West, at the foot of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale between 1937 and 1959.

Open to the public, Wright’s house, with its walls made of local desert rock, illustrates his organic approach to architecture, and especially the inspiration he took from the desert landscape. Today, Taliesin West is the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, as well as home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

One of Wright’s acolytes, Albert Chase McArthur, designed Phoenix’s famous Arizona Biltmore, known as the “Jewel of the Desert.” Opened in 1929, the hotel features 39 acres of gardens that frame the main building, known as the Biltmore Block, built in the Wright style.

Hotel Valley Ho (Image: Hotel Valley Ho)

A celebrity haunt since its opening in 1956, Hotel Valley Ho combines modern and Southwest styles.
(Image: Hotel Valley Ho)

Made of concrete blocks pre-cast on site, the Biltmore Block features a geometric pattern that is said to represent a freshly cut palm. The hotel, which offers three tours weekly, was once a popular haunt of captains of industry and celebrities. Legend has it that Irving Berlin composed White Christmas there while sitting poolside.

Hotel Valley Ho, in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, is another past celebrity haunt. Built in 1956 by architect Edward L. Varney, the hotel brilliantly combines modern and Southwest styles. Valley Ho’s signature design element is the arrowhead-motif concrete panels that line a property furnished in hip mid-century style. Celebrity guests included Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, as well as Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, who held their 1957 wedding reception in the hotel ballroom.