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MARK-itecture: See Arizona’s ICONIC Enchantment Resort in Sedona Through the Eyes of Architect Mark Candelaria

Red Rock views in Sedona Arizona at The Enchantment Resort
Along with his mentor George W. Christensen, Mark Candelaria designed one of the most captivating and, of course, enchanting resorts in Arizona. On his 60th birthday, he looks back and ahead from the paradise he in Sedona’s Red Rocks.

This week, I turn 60 years old. We had many grand plans for this week, starting with celebrating my 60th on the final days of our 20th Candelaria Design Tour Italy at the spectacular Villa d’Este on Lake Como. However, COVID-19 sidelined those plans, and the tour was called off.

suite at The Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona

Another venue dear to my heart, Enchantment Resort in Sedona, AZ, became our sentimental backup plan. We hoped to entertain clients, friends and family for an extended weekend, but that idea became so compromised with adhering to social distancing guidelines and how many people we could gather together.

So, my wife, Isabel, and I finally decided the two of us would go to the Enchantment Resort the weekend before my birthday and use the time to simply reflect and look back at my 60 years, but more importantly, look forward to all that still lies ahead. The Enchantment Resort AZ is a great place to do this, as it has a special place in my heart.

My young Mark Candelaria naivety was my best ally. I knew that it was a wide-open canvas, and the surrounding landscape would be our inspiration.

Mark Candelaria and George W. Christensen architects The Enchantment Sedona

I had the privilege to work on the design of this amazing marquis property from 1982 to 1987 with my former mentor, friend and partner, architect George W. Christensen, who sadly passed away in 2004. George and his team hired me in 1982 as a draftsman, and, by 1983, he asked me to join him to go check out a new project in Sedona under the John Gardiner Development Company. I will never forget that first visit to the incredible Boynton Canyon, located just a few miles northwest of Sedona, AZ, where the Enchantment Resort would come to life.

Nestled in the towering red sandstone rocks of the home of the Yavapai Tribe, the 82 acres at the time consisted of a large, contemporary home constructed of fired adobe and concrete, a guest house connected by an archway bridge, four or five casitas and unlimited possibilities. Looking back, I still am not sure why George chose me to accompany him that day. I was young, hungry and eager and had no idea what a daunting project this would be. My young Mark Candelaria naivety was my best ally. I knew that it was a wide-open canvas, and the surrounding landscape would be our inspiration.

From master-planning the locations of the casitas to remodeling the home into the clubhouse and spa, to coordinating the locations and connections for the wells and water system to the on-site sewer plant and the needs of the Yavapai Tribe, there was so much more to this project than simply designing casitas.

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modern design at The Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona

With numerous trips and hearings in Prescott, late-night “meetings” with the Yavapai elders, walking and siting each casita, developing the trails, value engineering and budget meetings with the builders, The Phil W. Morris Company, and the bank financing the project, Security Savings, I was given the amazing opportunity to literally build a city and learn along the way.

Even at the age of 23, I did have an awareness of how special this project was, would become, and still is today, some nearly 40 years later. I remember many occasions where my team and I would be working all night long, but the motivation of what we were creating spurred us on and kept us going.

So many people contributed to the creation of the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, AZ, and it’s crazy to look back at how young we all were and how hard we all worked to make it all come to life. I learned so much and gained so much confidence as a young architect along the way, actually becoming a partner of the firm Christensen-Cassidy-Billington and Candelaria in 1987.

dining room at The Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona

Finally, after a couple of years of design and construction, we celebrated the grand opening in 1987, and George and I were graciously included in the celebration with a couple of evening stays in the newly completed resort. It was such a memorable experience after so many years of hard work. There I was standing with media mogul Merv Griffin, Hall of Fame Quarterback Y.A. Tittle, whose personal home we would later design, the Maguire Sisters, who would also become clients in Paradise Valley, newsman Mike Wallace and many, many more.

Not bad for a kid from Durango, Colorado who had just graduated from high school nine years earlier, been hired as a draftsman at age 21. Not bad for a kid whose father worked on the Narrow Gauge Train and whose mother was an immigrant from East Prussia Germany. The year of 1987 was big, full of Mark Candelaria creations, including my first child, my lovely daughter, Tiffany, who was born just a few months following the grand opening and now works with our firm.

So much has happened since that grand opening day. I stayed with the CCBC crew for another 12 years, got my architect’s license in 1992, and, then, when George retired in 1999, I went on to start my own firm, Candelaria Design.

pool at The Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona

During the course of the design and construction of the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, AZ, I met two of my long-time best friends. The Construction Project Manager, Larry Peery, became one of my best friends, and I would design three homes for him. Larry would join me on a number of our Candelaria Tours to Italy and Spain.

Another lasting friendship from this project was John Gardiner’s daughter, Tricia McKnight, and her husband, Clayton. Tricia and her partner, Lynn Beer, did all of the interiors for the clubhouse and casitas, and Clayton was part of the development team. Clayton and I are proud members of the Scottsdale Charros today and commiserate on the Charro Rides and Spring Training every year. Every now and then, we all get together and relive those memories of creating Enchantment.

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It’s a place where the soul and spirit of the young, bright-eyed Mark Candelaria, with a full head of hair, dreams and aspirations, still lives and walks through the piñon gazing at the endless horizon framed by the red rocks of Sedona.

The Enchantment Resort architect Mark Candelaria

Enchantment is a special place for me. It’s a place where the soul and spirit of the young, bright-eyed Mark Candelaria, with a full head of hair, dreams and aspirations, still lives and walks through the piñon gazing at the endless horizon framed by the red rocks of Sedona.

Isabel and I love coming here to escape, refresh and replenish, and it has been so rewarding to hear that this place does the same for so many. The project lives on and has undergone many beautiful changes and additions. My moment to be a part of this creation will always be there for me, and my hope is that this special, spiritual space for many generations going back to the Yavapai tribe, will evolve and inspire many more generations to come.

What an amazing 60 years it has been for me. I can’t wait to spend many more birthdays here at Enchantment.

patio at The Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona

MARK-itecture is a collaboration between ICONIC LIFE and Mark Candelaria, founder and principal of Candelaria Design, whose award-winning designs, visionary architecture and international reputation make him an expert voice on architecture, food and travel when you bring them all together. He will share his travels and perspective as a regular contributor right here. Mark and his partner Vivian Ayala designed ICONIC HAUS, opening November 27.

The ICONIC LIFE team sends its warmest wishes and much love to Mark on his big birthday and our gratitude for the wonderful friendship and partnership We know the best is yet to come!

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