Al Beadle: An Under-the Radar Midcentury Modernist in Phoenix
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
For more on Midcentury Modern Phoenix, see the Fall 2015 issue of Preservation, out in October.