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The Wright Stuff | Iconic Arizona Biltmore Reimagined for the 21st Century

photography courtesy of ARIZONA BILTMORE, A WALDORF ASTORIA RESORT

Arizona Biltmore Entrance Frank Lloyd Wright inspired
The Arizona Biltmore re-opened this month with a modern twist on an iconic architectural vision.

Since 1929 the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Arizona Biltmore has dazzled celebrities, politicians and luxury travelers with the master architect’s unique style and playful sense of glamour. In 2020, the hotel closed for more than a year to undergo the largest renovation in its history.

Reimagining an icon can be challenging, but the Arizona Biltmore emerged from her facelift this May with a look that is sexy, bold and modern, but still pays homage to its history.

"It was a complete honor and privilege to have the opportunity to work on such an iconic project that McArthur and Wright designed. "

Frank Lloyd Wright inspired design Arizona Biltmore

“Working on a historic property, you’re not trying to create something that looks like it was possibly original,” said Erik Peterson, founder and the lead architect from PHX Architecture and a former intern at Wright’s Taliesin Architects.

Instead, the goal is to seamlessly blend new with old in a style that is complimentary and cohesive. PHX designed the renovations for another iconic property, the Lodge at Pebble Beach.

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“It was a complete honor and privilege to have the opportunity to work on such an iconic project that McArthur and Wright designed. It was a dream collaboration between all of the design team members, and I am excited for guests and the entire local, Arizona community to experience it.”

This iconic project was a complete collaboration. A dream team of talents came together for the ultimate result: In addition to Peterson and Harris, Ron Skoog and Mark Schriefer from PHX; Jim Smith from Serving the Nation; Therese Virserius from Virserius Studio; Burton Studio; Walter Spitz from Creative Designs in Lighting; and SFA.

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One imagines that the new look is something Albert Chase McArthur, Frank Lloyd Wright’s student and the original architect of record, and Wright, the consulting architect, would have created if they were designing today.

The bones of the Biltmore weren’t altered, and the property still retains the geometric designs, and “Biltmore Block” that are instantly recognizable. There are 34 different Biltmore Block designs on property, and the 6,000 that needed repair or replacement were done by mason’s onsite, as it was done in the 1920s.

The reimagination of the property involved adding several new amenities to the hotel, including the Spire Bar, the new social center of the resort. It’s easy to see how the Ramada arching over the bar is an evolution of Wright design, and the 30-foot spire was inspired by Wright’s original design for an obelisk at the Arizona state capitol.

Spire Bar renovation Arizona Biltmore

In an ode to Wright’s love of glass and mosaics, the bar is covered in Italian Bisazza tile. The nine fire pits flanking the bar encourage guests to linger with the signature inSPIREd cocktail in hand.

Foodies will revel in the new Renata’s Hearth signature restaurant opening May 18. With a menu centered on smoke and Latin flavors, the restaurant heats up guests’ palettes with dishes like Mole Negro Rubbed Smoked Wagyu Brisket, Grilled Branzino and Renata’s Pozole Blanco. Chef Jesus Figueoa Ortega blends the Latin cooking knowledge his abuelitas taught him with his gourmet kitchen experience gained at Tarbell’s and Café Monarch.

According to Wright, “Every great architect is, necessarily, a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

Arizona Biltmore Frank Lloyd Wright inspired resort

Adjacent to Reneta’s is the Wright Bar, the birthplace of the classic Tequila Sunrise cocktail. Now, the bar is the epitome of Art Deco sexy with its black and deep green color palate, mirrored ceiling and peacock tiles.

To take advantage of the more than 300 days of sun in Phoenix, a new adults-only pool was added to give grown-ups a place to unwind. The Saguaro Pool was named after the 140-year-old cactus in the pool area. The hotel’s original Paradise pool was redesigned and features a 65-foot triple water slide designed to delight the kids and the young at heart.

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For years, the Biltmore spa didn’t reflect the five-star resort it resided at, but now with a total, ground-up remodel, the Tierra Luna Spa is poised to standout in one of the most resort spa rich cities in the country.

Featuring 12 treatment rooms, including one with its own patio and a $17,000 outdoor slate soaking tub, the spa celebrates the Earth, Moon and astrology. Spa divas will love the mud and crystal bar where their therapist selects a personalized mud/crystal combination based on their astrological sun sign, followed by a relaxing treatment.

When the hotel opened in 1929, the 28 cottages were where the children and the nanny stayed. Fast-forward to 2021, and the team at Virserius Studio and PHX Architecture have transformed the cottages into couple’s sanctuaries. The interior features a contemporary, modern aesthetic warmed up by layers of texture in the form of pillows, artwork, and throw rugs. Many cottages sport a rooftop deck, providing a romantic place to watch the gorgeous sunsets Arizona is known for.

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According to PHX project architect Maurita Harris, the decks were used when the property opened, but then were closed and not used in the modern era. Bringing this great terrace space back definitely ups the wow factor of cottage living.

Even if you’re not at the Arizona Biltmore for an event, make sure to pop in and see the Gold Room. The ballroom was revamped with the largest gold leaf ceiling in the world outside of the Taj Mahal.

According to Wright, “Every great architect is, necessarily, a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” It’s clear that the architects and designers charged with reimagining the Biltmore have done just that and built upon an icon that continues to delight travelers today and into the future.

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