Arizona : Experiencing Frank Lloyd Wright’s Genius and Cactus Glory

One of the only existing luxury hotels in the world with a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design, The Arizona Biltmore has been an Arizona landmark since its opening in 1929 when it was crowned “The Jewel of the Desert.” The resort was designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a Harvard graduate, who had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright from 1907 – 1909 in Chicago.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to stay in the resort for a seminar on Interior Design Business Practices. I was wowed by the distinguished hotel, which is stamped by the unique design touches of Wright and the geometrical fascination he applied to patterns and architecture. Nature is always a central element in his creations, and the building’s openness to the exterior is immediately evident.
The resort carries in its walls the quiet and invisible weight of famous past visitors and guests, extending a definite glamorous feel to one’s stay: Marilyn Monroe, Irving Berlin, JFK, Clark Gable, Liza Minnelli, Ronald Reagan are a few of the prestigious visitors who stayed at the Arizona Biltmore.
Below, outdoor and indoor views of the resort. Photo credits: Barbara Elza Hirsch.
Arizona Biltmore- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza
Arizona Biltmore Hotel- Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza
Beautiful gardens and terraces surround the block like concrete pavilions of the Arizona Biltmore.
Arizona Biltmore Hotel-Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaArizona Biltmore Hotel Terrace-Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAeizona Biltmore Hotel Lobby-Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaArizona Biltmore Door Detail- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaUnusual juxtapositions of glass and concrete, velvet and carpeting enhance the unusual spaces of the Wright-inspired Arizona Biltmore Hotel.
Gleaming ceilings-Arizona Biltmore Hotel- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaArizona Biltmore Hotel Sitting area- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaWright Glass Art Mural at the Arizona Biltmore- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaNote the repetitive palm leaf motif carved and repeated throughout the resort. This motif surrounds a stunning glass mural work by Frank Lloyd Wright entitled “Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers”
Arizona Biltmore Hotel Sitting area- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaStunning ceiling fixture in one of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel's restaurants. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaGorgeous chandelier and ceiling detail bring the eye up in this Arizona Biltmore Hotel dining area.
I was in Phoenix mostly for work but was able to escape to the Desert Botanical Garden with my designer friend and colleague, Richard Rabel.
Cactus glory comes to mind and I was truly awed by the landscapes and local plants and fauna. I had never been out West so this was really a treat! The Chihuly exhibit was being installed while we were there so I was able to catch a few interesting exhibits in the making, with stunning glass sculptures arranged next to grandiose plants.
Chihuly-Blue thistle like glass sculpture at the Desert Botanical Garden- Photo credit Barbara  Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch
Chihuly-Yellow sculpture at the Desert Botanical Garden- Photo credit Barbara  Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch
Me in the garden- Chez ElzaRampant Cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez elzaDesert Botanical Garden- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch
Hope you enjoyed this slice of design and sun from Arizona!

Two Jaw Dropping Museum Collections in Boston

Photo by Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaThe Harvard Museum of Natural History is a wonderful gem  located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

With a mission to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the human place in it, the Harvard Museum of Natural History draws on the University’s collections and research to present a historic and interdisciplinary exploration of science and nature.

I try to go once a year to take in some of my favorite museum collections. Today I am sharing two of my favorite permanent exhibits. What is really wonderful about these is you can see them anytime, they never go away…

The Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants are the most delicate and exquisite glass models of botany ever seen. These unique pieces were commissioned by Professor George Goodale, founder of Harvard’s Botanical Museum, who wanted life-like representations of the plant kingdom to teach botany in his classrooms.

From 1886 to 1936, father and son glass artisans team Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka of the Blaschka Studio, Hosterwitz, Germany, made these beauties entirely of blown and fused glass, with wire reinforcements hidden inside the glass as needed.

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaRows and rows of plants in gorgeous polished wood and glass cases adorn the exhibit. Above, a glass banana plant and fruit. Photo by Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAbove, a glass water lily. Photo by Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto by Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto by Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo by Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaTools of the trade used to make the glass plants. Colored glass was used for many pieces and, in some cases, some plants were enameled with a thin wash of colored ground glass or metal oxides and heated until the material fused to the model. Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

In another room, is the extraordinary museum collection of rocks and minerals. This renovated gallery displays thousands of rare minerals and sparkling gemstones in both rough and cut examples, including a 1,600-pound amethyst geode from Brazil. Exhibits highlight new research and offer a broad overview of the dynamic processes and events that formed our planet and that have shaped its continuing evolution.

To visit this room for someone in love with nature, color and texture, is equivalent to dying and going to heaven:

Photo credit: Barbara Elza HirschPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza HirschPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch

Photo credit: Barbara Elza hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza HirschPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did! Happy weekend!

Barbara