In the latest in a new series, a local architect shares his or her favorite building. This week, John Messina wonders about life inside a blue house.
I believe a good building should not only solve its functional requirements, but also should stir the imagination. There is a house in the mid-century Catalina Vista neighborhood of Tucson, not far from the Arizona Inn, that has for years caught my attention and evoked my musings whenever I drive by.
Surrounded by a screen of head-high oleanders is a Mexican-style house painted a deep and vibrant blue. The color is almost electric and, whenever I pass this house, I inevitably think of Frida Kahlo’s blue house in Coyoacán — a lovely neighborhood within the sprawl of Mexico City. There, the color used, azul añil, is considered to ward off evil spirits.
When I gaze at the blue Tucson house, I often imagine Frida and Diego Rivera, in their Coyoacán home, serving some wonderful Mexican meal on their terrace to a gathering of interesting friends.
Like a typical 19th century Sonoran urban dwelling, this Tucson house has an arched zaguán, or entry passage, from the front to an inner courtyard. This opening allows the passerby to just barely glimpse, through the wrought iron gate, the foliage of potted plants, as well as the blades of a slowly moving ceiling fan — evoking life within.
I have no idea who lives in this house, nor do I know the name of its architect, if indeed there even was one. I can only envision owners, past and present, appreciating the best of this region and its historical ties with Mexico.
Whoever made the decision to paint the house such a bold color and to maintain that color, in a neighborhood of neutral hues, took a bold risk that succeeded, and the resultant architecture is as seductive as fine tequila.