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The View From Phoenix

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Earlier this week, I spent two days in Phoenix, reporting a story for Dwell's upcoming December/January issue. My second afternoon, local architects Cy Keener and Jay Atherton offered to take me on a whirlwind tour of what's cool in their city. As a disclaimer Cy explained, as we trundled along in his white pickup, that in Phoenix, "'walking distance' is actually a five or ten minute drive" and that, sprawl notwithstanding, "if you know the places to go, you can live a wonderful life."

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  Our first stop was the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art for '90 Days Over 100°,' the architectural duo's first art installation, and their contribution to the museum's new 'Architecture + Art' series. Atherton and Keener built a cavern out of plywood sheathing and Tyvek, which channels sunlight to melt 1,200 pounds of ice suspended above. With water running down in rivulets, and dripping sounds all around, it was a cool and tranquil contrast to the 101-degree heat outside.
    Our first stop was the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art for '90 Days Over 100°,' the architectural duo's first art installation, and their contribution to the museum's new 'Architecture + Art' series. Atherton and Keener built a cavern out of plywood sheathing and Tyvek, which channels sunlight to melt 1,200 pounds of ice suspended above. With water running down in rivulets, and dripping sounds all around, it was a cool and tranquil contrast to the 101-degree heat outside.
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  To enter the installation, you walk through a curtain made of curling lengths of polarfleece, and glimpse the exterior wooden skeleton of the structure.
    To enter the installation, you walk through a curtain made of curling lengths of polarfleece, and glimpse the exterior wooden skeleton of the structure.
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  Next we stopped by the three-year-old Prayer Pavilion of Light, a minimalist chapel designed by local architects DeBartolo Architects. At night the chapel glows through its many layers of translucent glass, fulfilling the architects' vision of the building as a 'lantern on a hill.'
    Next we stopped by the three-year-old Prayer Pavilion of Light, a minimalist chapel designed by local architects DeBartolo Architects. At night the chapel glows through its many layers of translucent glass, fulfilling the architects' vision of the building as a 'lantern on a hill.'
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  Keener leads the way through the chapel's entrance, through gigantic cast-bronze doors inscribed with the Lord's Prayer.
    Keener leads the way through the chapel's entrance, through gigantic cast-bronze doors inscribed with the Lord's Prayer.
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  A highlight of the day was a visit to Wendell Burnette's house, which he built in 1995, at the same time as he worked for Will Bruder and served as the project lead on Phoenix's celebrated Burton Barr Central Library. The house is built into a hillside and spans two concrete monoliths.
    A highlight of the day was a visit to Wendell Burnette's house, which he built in 1995, at the same time as he worked for Will Bruder and served as the project lead on Phoenix's celebrated Burton Barr Central Library. The house is built into a hillside and spans two concrete monoliths.
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  My favorite detail in the kitchen.
    My favorite detail in the kitchen.
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  The structure is split into two units, with the kitchen and living room connected to the bedrooms by an outdoor terrace and a set of innovative but rather precarious steel stairs, shown here. Burnette's sweet and slightly senile old dog can't climb them.
    The structure is split into two units, with the kitchen and living room connected to the bedrooms by an outdoor terrace and a set of innovative but rather precarious steel stairs, shown here. Burnette's sweet and slightly senile old dog can't climb them.
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  Here's the "summer terrace," set in the shade below the main structure. You pass by it on your way up to the house. The water that runs down the concrete-coated hillside behind the butterfly chairs evaporates and creates a cooler microclimate. To the right is a small plunge pool, where Burnette and his wife cool off each night before bed.
    Here's the "summer terrace," set in the shade below the main structure. You pass by it on your way up to the house. The water that runs down the concrete-coated hillside behind the butterfly chairs evaporates and creates a cooler microclimate. To the right is a small plunge pool, where Burnette and his wife cool off each night before bed.
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  I also enjoy the look of this poured-in-place concrete bathtub, though it looks somewhat rough on the back.
    I also enjoy the look of this poured-in-place concrete bathtub, though it looks somewhat rough on the back.
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  One of the things I was most excited to see was the Central Library's fifth floor, renowned for its acre-sized reading room, the largest in the country according to Burnette. The cavernous space is made more intimate by the individual reading lamps at each seat, a detail Burnette cribbed from the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.
    One of the things I was most excited to see was the Central Library's fifth floor, renowned for its acre-sized reading room, the largest in the country according to Burnette. The cavernous space is made more intimate by the individual reading lamps at each seat, a detail Burnette cribbed from the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.
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  Love the suspended clocks.
    Love the suspended clocks.
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  The exposed infrastructure at each computer station—cables spiraling down from the ceiling—gives the place a surprisingly industrial feel.
    The exposed infrastructure at each computer station—cables spiraling down from the ceiling—gives the place a surprisingly industrial feel.
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  Our last stop was the studio of Mayme Kratz, an artist who works largely with resin, embedding bones, dried plant material, and other natural objects on resin-coated boards. She considers some of her art-making "a way of journal-keeping." These are her "knots," handmade nests built atop architectural drawings and frozen in resin.
    Our last stop was the studio of Mayme Kratz, an artist who works largely with resin, embedding bones, dried plant material, and other natural objects on resin-coated boards. She considers some of her art-making "a way of journal-keeping." These are her "knots," handmade nests built atop architectural drawings and frozen in resin.
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  Here, Kratz and Keener discuss her recent experiments with glass, such as these globes that perfectly record the shape of the animal skulls and starfish embedded (and incinerated) within them.
    Here, Kratz and Keener discuss her recent experiments with glass, such as these globes that perfectly record the shape of the animal skulls and starfish embedded (and incinerated) within them.
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  Here's a glimpse at a shelf in Kratz's office, artfully arranged with some of the objects, materials, and clippings that inspire her art-making.
    Here's a glimpse at a shelf in Kratz's office, artfully arranged with some of the objects, materials, and clippings that inspire her art-making.

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