A blue spire would have reached into the clouds, shadowing a blue lattice canopy made to filter sunlight over the buildings, fountains and pools — all designed to create an “Oasis in the Desert.”
But what was envisioned as a bold structure made of onyx, stone and copper housed in the red buttes of Papago Park is in reality a 9-foot by 12-foot model made of paint and wood housed in the Arizona Capitol Museum.
Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1957 vision for the state Capitol complex never materialized, but it lives on in the model, sketches and digital prints of original drawings on display at the Capitol museum for at least a year.
“Wright’s design was inspiring and invigorating, a 20th century design,” said Joan Clark, deputy director of the Arizona State Library and director of the Capitol Museum.
In the 1950s, the Arizona Legislature had outgrown the copper-domed Capitol building and needed to expand. Phoenix Gazette reporter Lloyd Clark asked part-time Arizona resident Wright what should be done at the Capitol. In response, the famous architect began to sketch.
His mental picture of the Capitol would require a beautiful backdrop, like that of Papago Park in Phoenix.
“Mr. Wright would been appalled to put it (in the current Capitol’s location),” he said. “It would have been the best thing the state of Arizona had regarding tourists.”
There was a lot of public support for Wright’s design, and he said he would do it without commission, but the Legislature turned it down and built the current House and Senate buildings.
“(Wright’s response was that) this is typical Arizona,” Lloyd said during an event at the museum last week. “They had no appreciation for his talent.”
Although the state never implemented the design, Joan, the museum’s director, said it’s still important to allow Arizonans to see it.
“We really want people to think about their role in government and see what could have been the seat of their government,” she said.
Joan isn’t the first person to display the model at the Capitol. In 1990, Gov. Rose Mofford put the project on display in the Capitol rotunda to celebrate Wright’s architecture and Arizona’s heritage.
“Hopefully it’ll draw more people to the Capitol Museum,” Joan said.
Prior to its arrival at the Capitol, Wright’s sketches and model were on exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum.
“They would have gone back into storage if we didn’t bring them here,” Joan said. “So many people don’t know (about Wright’s idea) … we just want people to think about it.”