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2014 Master of the Southwest Erik Peterson - Architect

Author: Terri Feder
Issue: March, 2014, Page 98
Master of the Southwest architect Erik Peterson stands outside the first home he designed in Scottsdale’s Silverleaf community.



Erik Peterson Designs Balanced Homes That Bring in the Light and Enhance the Art of Living

“I knew that I wanted to be an architect by sixth grade. Dad was into sports, and I was the type who liked to create. But one thing we had in common was watching ‘This Old House,’” recalls architect Erik B. Peterson, AIA.

Growing up in a suburb of Chicago—a city that celebrates architecture and the presence of many structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan—Peterson began his vocational training early. “For all four years of high school, I took architectural drafting classes,” he reports.

When Peterson arrived at Iowa State University to study architecture as an undergraduate, he was ahead of the class. “I already knew how to draft, so I had that advantage,” he explains. During his senior year, he participated in an architectural study abroad program. “Living in Rome and traveling throughout Europe broadened my horizons in terms of understanding historical architecture. It also taught me how architecture creates public spaces, and it introduced me to regional architectural design—how architecture changes based on location, culture and environment,” notes the architect.

This 4,300-square-foot Desert Contemporary home designed by architect Erik Peterson pays homage to Frank Lloyd Wright and organic architecture. Its key features include a copper fascia running the length of the roof, glass walls harmonizing interiors with nature at every turn, and walls composed of stone from the site. The back patio shown here includes a fire feature and pool.
Upon graduation, Peterson headed to London for a seven-month internship with Sir Terry Farrell—the UK’s leading architectural planner. “From Sir Farrell,” he states, “I learned how architects are called upon to be leaders and that we have an obligation to cities and to shape how people interact with their environments.” 

In 1994 Peterson came to Arizona for the Master of Science in Architecture program at Arizona State University. “Everything kept falling in place,” he says of his fomenting career. “The architecture professor who greeted me was Jack Peterson. When I told him I would need a job, he said, ‘I am a principal at Taliesin Architects; I’ll get you the summer internship.’”

During his internship, he worked on an original Frank Lloyd Wright design—The Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin—and drafted his first home remodel. He also met the person he credits with setting off the upward trajectory of his career—Bing Hu—a principal architect with Taliesin Architects at the time. “Bing was a huge mentor to me in that he taught me to be fearless. He came here from China with just a guitar and his clothes. Through drive and passion, he was able to transform organic principles that Wright taught into timeless architectural works of art. He showed me how to walk on a site and let it inform me how a structure can be positioned so that it is ‘of the site,’ not ‘on the site,’” Peterson points out.

When Hu (also a Master of the Southwest) left to start his own firm—H & S International—Peterson joined him, stayed for eight years and became licensed. In 2000, he married and was encouraged by his wife, Kimberly, to start his own firm. “So, in 2002, I founded Peterson Architecture & Associates,” he explains.

A copper roof, gabion-style pillars and masonry walls with horizontal integrated grooves define this Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Desert Contemporary home at DC Ranch.
By spring of 2003, Peterson was named the Young Gun of the local American Institute of Architects chapter, and by 2005, his firm had 28 employees and was working on the most sought-after projects in town. In 2010, the Master of the Southwest, together with longtime business colleague, Nikal Conti, rebranded the company under the name PHX Architecture. Today, they employ 12 licensed architects and 10 architects-in-training, who together design residential, hospitality and commercial structures.

Over the years, Peterson has garnered a reputation for timeless designs shaped by their site, region and owners’ dreams. Whether a Spanish Colonial in Silverleaf, where he’s designed more homes than any other architect to date, or a streamlined Contemporary abode, it is always a visual feast. Natural light, intimate spaces and authentic architectural details abound. “I am a very ordered architect,” says Peterson, noting that he often designs on axial alignments. “I strive to create human-scale, comfortable spaces that offer natural light in every livable area.”

Rift-cut oak cabinetry and flooring, streamlined furnishings, a marble mosaic backsplash, quartz countertops and a hammered-copper range hood create an organic feel in the kitchen. Clerestory windows along with myriad others, help connect the interiors with nature.

A massive glass wall allows natural light—a hallmark of Peterson-designed homes—to flood the living room. The soaring, vertical configuration of the copper-and-stone fireplace is a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright, who often designed tall fireplaces. Tailored furnishings in sumptuous fabrics, including leather and chenille, lend softness to the Contemporary scene.
Built in 2004 in Scottsdale’s Silverleaf community, the second home to be built there, this Spanish Colonial-style home illustrates the timeless nature of Peterson’s designs. With its plethora of windows—some leaded, some arched—soaring stairwell tower, broad roof lines of Spanish tiles, and dramatic auto court entry, the 6,500 square-foot residence exudes much charm. Authentic materials abound, including the cobblestone pavers cladding the driveway. At the center of the bi-level fountain is an urn from Italy.


The great room of this Silverleaf home features a French limestone fireplace, leaded clerestory windows topped with hand-sculpted plaster reliefs, French limestone flooring in a rough-cut Versailles pattern, arched French doors leading to the back patio, and a beamed cathedral ceiling. A leaded-glass quatrefoil window on a focal wall draws the eye upward.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: Hand-painted designs embellish the tiled risers of the tower’s staircase, while a leaded-glass window lends Old World ambience. The custom iron railing, in a traditional Spanish design, and an arched opening with Roman travertine columns, speak to the detail that went into the home. • A shed-style ceiling supported by stacked beams adds architectural interest in the kitchen. The tiered furniture-style island and hand-painted tile backsplash lend color and character. • In another part of the master bath, deeply set arches house a sink area and separate vanity. The mosaic tile surrounding the mirror echoes the hues and shapes of the tile rug. Arched glass doors on both sides of the walk-through shower allow for a visual connection between the his and her sections of the expansive bath.

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