In the first of a regular series, a local architect shares his or her favorite building. This week, Frank Mascia chooses a Tucson office building that’s easy to miss.
With a few hundred years of notable buildings, from Spanish Baroque to Arizona School Modern, great architecture abounds in our city. Choosing a favorite “I wish I had done that” building is beyond daunting.
For me, the choice should be architecture that, like our city, is honest, indignantly beautiful and uniquely Tucson. Having said that, I’d like to suggest a building that is as simple, thoughtful and fully aware of its desert setting, and as modest as, Tucson itself. You may have driven past it hundreds of times and not marked its existence.
The 1950s office of Arthur T. Brown at 726 N. Country Club Road is a simple study of space and planes — masonry and glass — executed so precisely that it seems there could be no other way. Brown, Arizona’s first fellow of the American Institute of Architects, was an architect, artist and inventor. He is recognized as a pioneer of passive solar heating and cooling. Brown, a true modernist designer, was fully informed by the wonder and optimism of post-World War II Tucson.
This building’s obscured delight takes a little effort to uncover. Only the architect’s banded windows mark an otherwise unassuming west-facing Country Club façade. After moving to my neighboring central Tucson home, I realized its faceted richness — the innovative L-shaped space planning, abundant natural light, whimsical hyperbolic carport and almost perfect solar orientation. They all combine to elegantly fill this site with a building and a hidden courtyard oasis.
Brown’s wonderful architectural gesture, born of his response to its place and function, is timeless, innovative, effective and delightful. Although aging poorly, its original elegance and beauty is undeniable. This building follows an architectural path we might do well to re-explore.
Does selecting a favorite building endorse a style or an architect? I hope so! Brown and his buildings represent the best of what should be Tucson architecture.