September 18, 2015

Al Beadle: An Under-the Radar Midcentury Modernist in Phoenix

Beadle White Gates house

photo by: Modern Phoenix LLC

White Gates (1957), a recently saved house in the foothills of Camelback Mountain.

Most of the national attention paid to historic architecture in Phoenix goes (understandably) to Frank Lloyd Wright. But the city had other important architects during the 20th century, including Al Beadle, a pioneer of desert Modernism.

Beadle didn’t actually attend architecture school; instead, he learned construction during his service with the U.S. Navy’s Seabees during World War II. He arrived in Phoenix after the war and soon became a coveted designer of sleekly Modern homes, offices, restaurants, hotels, and apartment buildings.

Beadle postcard of Ferguson's

photo by: Modern Phoenix LLC

A postcard of now-demolished Ferguson’s Cafeteria (1959).

While many of his glamorous public structures, such as the Safari Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, are long demolished, his houses seem to be highly valued.

“I think we’ve turned a corner, residentially,” says local Modernism expert Alison King, who maintains the online Beadle Archive and founded ModernPhoenix.net. “His homes don’t appear to be deeply threatened.”

Uhlmann Beadle House

photo by: Modern Phoenix LLC

The restored Uhlmann Residence.

She names the Uhlmann House in the foothills of Camelback Mountain as an example of a Beadle that’s been restored beautifully.

Other well-preserved Beadle works include Executive Towers, a 22-story building that was Phoenix's tallest at the time of its construction in 1962-63, and the one-story Triad, the only structure in the influential Case Study program to be built outside of California.

Beadle Executive Towers

photo by: Modern Phoenix LLC

Executive Towers (1963), a residential high-rise.

Whatever their size, his creations tended to follow a strict grid, and used straightforward materials such as concrete, glass, and wood.

“With Beadle, the pleasure is in the regularity of the grid,” says King. “The beauty is the feeling of being inside the grid. It’s like being inside a grove of orange trees. There’s an orderly sense -- you know where you are.”

Beadle Triad Open House

photo by: Modern Phoenix LLC

The central courtyard of The Triad (1963), also known as Case Study Apartments #1.

For more on Midcentury Modern Phoenix, see the Fall 2015 issue of Preservation, out in October.

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.

@mdrueding

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