Jewel of the Desert Distinct history and architecture make
the Biltmore Resort an icon in Arizona
diANA MiREL IS
WRITER TO JPM.
With a rich history and one-of-a-kind artistry,
the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix
offers guests more than golf courses and pools.
The resort is, in fact, a tribute to Frank Lloyd
Wright, one of America’s most illustrious architects. Every inch of the 80-year-old resort showcases Wright’s influence.
Wright’s student, Albert Chase McArthur,
built and designed the Arizona Biltmore in
1929. The Arizona Biltmore was McArthur’s
first hotel project, and the property still remains
the only existing hotel in the world with a
gold-leaf ceiling in the lobby that still remains
the second largest gold-leafed ceiling in the
world, second to the Taj Mahal.
“The ceiling is comprised of 36,000 square
feet of individual four-inch squares that were
hand-applied by artisans on scaffolding,” said
Management staff at the resort have maintained the ceiling over the years. After a fire in
the 1970s, the original ceiling artist was brought
in to train people in restoration and preservation of a gold-leaf ceiling.
Referred to early on as the “Jewel of the Desert,”
the Arizona Biltmore’s design complements
its awe-inspiring desert surroundings. Wright
advocated “organic architecture,” a concept that
dictates all parts of a design should relate to
the whole. He applied this concept by adopting
indigenous materials and influences to make his
structures become part of the landscape rather
than dominate it.
McArthur applied Wright’s organic vision to
the resort by constructing each building of the
resort with Biltmore Blocks—pre-cast blocks
made from desert sand. There are 34 different
geometric patterns, all inspired by the trunk of
a palm tree.
Julia Thorn, director of marketing and public
relations for the Arizona Biltmore, said the pre-cast blocks were originally created in a factory,
then erected onsite where men worked 10-hour
shifts to make 250,000 blocks.
“Over the years, with the expansions, the
number of Biltmore Blocks has grown to more
than 6 million,” Thorn said.
To bring the essence of the surroundings
inside, McArthur and Wright also designed a
Part art MuseuM
Along with its architectural beauty, the historic artwork scattered throughout the resort
transforms the property into an art museum of
sorts. The “Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers”
stained-glass window by Wright sits prominently in the lobby welcoming guests.
Throughout the resort’s gardens sit the
Biltmore Sprites, some of the most eminent
pieces on the grounds. These slender statues of
ethereal spirits are often referred to as the “lost
children of Frank Lloyd Wright.” They were
conceived in 1914 by sculptor Alfonso Iannelli
for a project Wright was working on in Chicago.
In 1985, six of the sprites found a new home
at the Arizona Biltmore when Wright’s wife
donated them to the resort.
PreservatiOn and evOlutiOn
Safeguarding the property’s history while staying with the times, is a constant balancing act
for the Arizona Biltmore.
“It has been challenging with so many expansions and enhancements over the years,” said
Thorn. “Preserving the history and design is
very important to us; it is our heritage. But, we
also have to keep pace with the ever-evolving,