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Arizona Architecture

The Top Must-See Arizona Sites Known For Their Wonderful Architecture

by | Jun 24, 2021 | Blog

Arizona is full of inspirational architecture with a wide variety of styles!  As passionate builders, we love beautiful architecture that not only sparks a feeling of awe but also excels in fulfilling its functional purpose. In this post, we are going to share a little about ten of the top architectural wonders in Arizona.  One of these locations may even serve as the inspiration behind your next construction project.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Chapel of the Holy Cross

This chapel, completed in 1956, sits atop the red rocks in Sedona, Arizona. Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a local rancher and sculptor, was inspired by the construction of the Empire state building to commission the building of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Richard Hein was chosen as architect, and the design was executed by architect August K. Strotz. The chapel is built on Coconino National Forest land.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

San Xavier Mission

The San Xavier Mission was founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. It is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. The Mission is located just nine miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona. In 1783, Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain hired an architect, Ignacio Gaona, and a large workforce of O’odham to create the present church. The Baroque-style church is constructed of low-fire clay brick, stone and lime mortar, and the entire structure is roofed with masonry vaults.

Taliesin West

Taliesin West

Established in 1937, Taliesin West is a National Historic Landmark located in the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert. Today it is the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Taliesin West was built and maintained almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it among the most personal of the architect’s creations.

The structure’s walls are made of local desert rocks, stacked within wood forms, filled with concrete. The flat surfaces of the rocks were placed outward facing and large boulders filled the interior space so concrete could be conserved. Natural light also played a major part in the design, the roof hanging past the walls to prevent unwanted sun rays from penetrating but allowing for horizontal light to pass through the room.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)

Designed by Will Bruder, SMoCA’s minimalist building has four art galleries along with a multi-use gallery called the SMoCA Lounge. The stucco theater block has an eggplant/gray color palette that relates to the dusky shadows the fading sun leaves on the McDowell mountains. The building has a dark, somewhat abstract mass that contrasts with corrugated and perforated galvanized metal and a softly curved steel entrance. Reflective membranes embody the qualities of the sky. In the lobby, there are two dramatic curved walls—one made of frosted glass, the other of dark grey steel. The simplistic exhibition spaces offer an appropriate environment to display the often complex and unexpected contemporary art.


Photo of Arcosanti courtesy of Jessica Jameson Photo


Arcosanti showcases architect Paolo Soleri’s theory of compact city design, Arcology (architecture + ecology). Built by 7,000-plus volunteers since the project began in 1970, Arcosanti offers various mixed-use buildings and public spaces where people live, work, visit and participate in educational and cultural programs.

Soleri created unique structures that have an otherworldliness using an earth-casting method where concrete was poured over the earth.  Sometimes, soil was intentionally mounded or colored with added cement pigments. Once the concrete had cured, the soil was excavated out from the concrete shell. Unconventionally, Soleri built his structures from the roof down. Many of the structures at Cosanti are built below ground level and surrounded by mounds of earth, acting as natural insulation to better moderate the dwellings’ interior temperatures.

ASU Gammage

Grady Gammage Auditorium

Located on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University, ASU Gammage is a historic performance hall designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The 3,000-seat venue opened in 1964. The building was designed as a musical scale with quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes so nothing is perfectly symmetrical. There are 27 different shades of terracotta in the building. The two matching fountains in front of the performing arts venue are signature Wright features and serve as a comment that water in the desert, like the arts, is a source of nourishment.

Tlaquepaque Square Sedona

Tlaquepaque Square

Abe Miller’s dream was to create a village in Sedona reflecting the flavor, sights and sounds of Old Mexico. Construction began in 1971 and was completed in 1978. To preserve the integrity of the site, buildings were constructed around existing trees; where possible, methods of construction mirrored those of Mexican artisans and builders; tiles, statuary, lanterns, pots, doors, wrought iron and fountains were largely imported piece by piece from Mexico. The result is a unique blend of architecture and nature, of the old with the new and an ambience of special charm and quiet elegance.

Riordan Mansion
Riordan Mansion

Riordan Mansion

The Riordan Mansion is a great example of American Arts and Crafts-style architecture. Charles Whittlesey, the architect who also designed the El Tovar Hotel, designed the mansion. The interiors of the Riordan family homes look essentially as they did in 1904. The homes showcase all original family belongings including fine examples of early Stickley furniture.

St. Augustine Cathedral

St. Augustine Cathedral

The St. Augustine cathedral was founded in the late 1800s. The cathedral features an elaborate cast stone façade with the coat of arms of Pope Pius XI. Indigenous desert plants and a representation of the Mission San Xavier del Bac are featured in the stone designs.

Arizona Biltmore

Arizona Biltmore

Built in 1929, the Biltmore Hotel was designed by Albert Chase McArthur. The hotel showcases Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, including his “Biltmore block”. Other highlights include the Mystery Room which was once used as a speakeasy and the gold leaf ceilings of the “Gold Room” ballroom.

Arizona Biltmore
Gilbert Arizona Temple

Bonus: Gilbert Mormon Temple

Here’s a bonus for reading this far! Gregory B. Lambright of Architekton oversaw the design of the Gilbert, Arizona temple. The five-level temple is described as 82½ feet tall with a spire reaching 195 feet, capped with a golden angel Moroni. The highly detailed ivory exterior will feature high-quality pre-cast concrete and stone accentuated with fine rustications and beautifully crafted art glass windows. 


No matter where you are in Arizona, there is some amazing architecture nearby.  Buildings that are both beautiful and functional are a joy to their occupants and passersby.

Emerald Inc. works with several experienced, visionary architects who design interior and exteriors that maximize the potential of the space.  A wonderful design for your space all starts with a walk-through and a discussion about your needs and what you envision for the building.

Email us today or call us at 480-832-9808 to get a no-obligation construction cost breakdown.  No matter your budget or timeline, we will work with you in creating a plan to complete your project on time, within your monetary constraints.