A Midcentury Modern Muse with Integrity in Design
PHOENIX –– Stylistic trends come and go but midcentury modern architecture remains a staple. Although more than 60 years have passed, the authenticity of midcentury modern architecture is as prevalent as ever in central Phoenix, more specifically, in the Encanto Vista Historic District. Frederick P. Weaver, credited for improving Arizona’s architecture scene and co-founder of Weaver & Drover, known today as DWL Architects + Planners, Inc., designed and built 712 West Vernon, a beautiful tribute to the era and style of architecture, as his personal residence. The residence is now home to Frank Austin, a midcentury modern enthusiast. Through a variety of detailed upgrades, Austin has completely renovated the home, retrofitting the spaces to complement the original design Weaver envisioned in 1951.
Midcentury modernism is an essential element to the fabric that makes up Phoenix architecture. While the community and landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, several buildings and homes in the downtown corridor draw upon numerous stylistic cues found in midcentury modern architecture. The details of 712 West Vernon radiate with trends of a midcentury modern home including simplicity and clean lines, large framed windows, organic, honest materials including the use of wood, red brick and stone, the integration of carports into the structure, among many others. “When designing a building, we start with the function and expand our ideas from there. The same is true in midcentury modern architecture, ‘form follows function.’ Weaver designed this home, post-war, when designs were focused on the American family – marrying functional spaces with high design elements derived from Bauhaus and International styles, creating what we know as midcentury modern,” said Sean Warfield, designer at DWL Architects.
After purchasing the residence in 2016, Austin began revitalizing the original charm through an extensive renovation. “The most laborious task was stripping and sanding all of the original natural wood features back to their true patina,” said Austin. “I think it’s essential to stay true to the foundational elements of the home and my goal is to pay homage to Mr. Weaver and other great Midcentury Modern Architects of the time.
Weaver was one of the few renowned architects who played an integral role in the midcentury modern movement across downtown Phoenix during the 1950’s with his designs for some of the more modern buildings throughout the Valley. These include Phoenix landmarks like his home on West Vernon Avenue, St. Agnes Church, ASU Hayden Library, Valley National Bank at 44th and Camelback and many more civic buildings, schools and banks. In addition to Weaver’s work, Phoenix is also home to the famed Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, a work of art and National Historic Landmark that celebrates the beauty of Sonoran Desert.
From Weaver to Austin, 712 West Vernon is truly an authentic representation of a home that celebrates the stylistic trends of midcentury modern architecture as well as demonstrates the passion both homeowners share for that era. Coming full circle, these renovations truly pay homage to what Weaver stood for, integrity in design. Beyond the transformational work that Weaver has left behind, his passion to preserve the character of the young city of Phoenix and revitalize the dignity it carried during the post-war era, still remains today through the historic neighborhoods and the midcentury modern architecture that has stood the test of time. Weaver’s original residence and Austin’s current home will be one of the featured houses as part of the home tour on April 2nd for Modern Phoenix Week 2017.