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The "A" List: Icons of Arizona Architecture

Author: Laura Gold
Issue: January, 2010, Page 164
Photo by Jo Ann Tull

Bill Tull
The impact of a few good men has left an indelible footprint in the desert. On the pages that follow we salute six trailblazers whose memorable and timeless designs gave us our first sense of Arizona Style.

William (Bill) F. Tull (1924-2000)

Birthplace: Normal, Illinois

Schooling: Tull studied art (including two years of architecture) at the University of Illinois.

Inspiration: In childhood, Tull was fascinated with the culture of the Southwest, and finally settled in Arizona as an adult. He was an advertising executive and an artist before becoming an architectural designer and builder of adobe homes. His designs incorporated Pueblo, Moorish and Territorial influences, and often featured handcrafted elements such as carved corbels, decorative tin cabinet fronts and stained glass.

Hallmarks of residential designs:

• Use of natural materials
• Ceilings accented with vigas and latillas
• Adobe walls with rounded corners
• Sculptural fireplaces
• Varied wall heights
• Twists and turns
• Small windows
• Saguaro rib detailing

Photo by Werner Segarra

Even the lantern at this Sedona adobe was designed by Bill Tull. The home’s protruding vigas, stepped wall and rounded corners are other Tull trademarks.
Contributions/claims to fame
: He played a significant role in changing Arizona rules that prevented building with adobe. The new adobe bricks he helped popularize no longer contained straw, which was replaced with an asphalt emulsion that satisfied Maricopa County and various cities’ concerns about adobe’s stability. Tull was selected as a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest in 1990.

Other talents/hobbies: Known for his spare, bold paintings, Tull was an accomplished artist as well as an architect.

Photo by John Amarantides, courtesy of the Taliesin Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

Birthplace: Richland Center, Wisconsin

Schooling: This mainly self-taught architect dropped out of high school a year before graduation. Although Wright attended college for a year and a half, his grades were low and he left without obtaining a degree.

Inspiration: Wright was inspired by nature and took an organic approach to architecture. As his homes were designed to blend with their surroundings, he built homes horizontally to connect with the land, often using materials found on-site. He also was a collector of, and found inspiration in, Japanese art.

Hallmarks of residential designs:
• Open floor plans
• Use of simple, natural materials
• Strong indoor/outdoor sensibility
• Geometric patterns

Contributions/claims to fame: Wright designed more than 350 buildings nationwide, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York. While the architect’s stamp is evident at the famous Arizona Biltmore hotel, Albert Chase McArthur is the architect of record, with Wright serving as consulting architect, according to Becky Blaine, Arizona Biltmore hotel historian, and Suzette Lucas, editor of the Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly. Wright also designed Grady Gammage Auditorium on the Arizona State University campus, and built Taliesin West in Scottsdale as both a winter home for himself and camp for his architecture team and school. The latter, as well as the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, still operate at Taliesin West. 

Photo by Alex Vertikoff

The cylindrical form of this Wright-designed home on the grounds of Taliesin West is reminiscent of the architect’s landmark Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Other talents/hobbies
: Wright loved music. His father was a musician, and Wright believed there was a strong connection between music and architecture. The architect also designed furniture and earned respect as a landscape architect known for naturalistic designs.

Photo by Arizona Architectural Archives, U of A

Josias Thomas Joesler
Josias Thomas Joesler (1895-1956)

Birthplace: Zurich, Switzerland

Schooling: Joesler studied architecture in Bern, Switzerland, and Mexico City; engineering in Heidelberg, Germany; and history and drawing at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Inspiration: Influenced by his widespread travels, Joesler incorporated a mix of European historical elements in his work; most of his homes displayed a fusion of styles.

Hallmarks of residential designs:
• Homes sited to capture views and breezes while avoiding direct sunlight
• Low-pitched clay tile roofs
• Screened porches
• Picture windows
• Homes centered around a patio or pool
• Handcrafted elements, including ornamental ironwork, wood corbels and adobe bricks

Contributions/claims to fame: While living in Los Angeles, Joesler was introduced to husband-and-wife developers John and Helen Murphey, with whom he collaborated for 30 years. Perhaps their most significant project was the Catalina Foothills Estates subdivision in Tucson, a planned community with rural character. The majority of homes in the Estates reflect a Spanish Colonial Revival style, in acknowledgment of the region’s Hispanic history and culture. In addition to homes, Joesler designed St. Philip’s In The Hills Episcopal Church, what is now the Hacienda del Sol guest ranch, and the Casas Adobes Plaza, all Tucson landmarks. He also worked to preserve the natural desert landscape and integrate it into his designs.

Photo by Christiaan Blok

 Located in Tucson’s Catalina Mountains, this Joesler-designed home features the architect’s characteristic thick adobe walls, fieldstone chimney and mission-tile roof.
Other talents/hobbies
: Joesler had a talent for learning languages; in addition to a Swiss dialect, he could speak Spanish, French, Italian and German.

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