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Regional Modernism for the Desert:
Calvin Straub’s Arizona Architecture

Modern Phoenix Neighborhood Network

Spring 2009

“The main problem of architecture today,” argued writer and critique Lewis Mumford, “is to reconcile the universal and the regional, the mechanical and the human, the cosmopolitan and the indigenous.” Mumford was referring to the Bay Region Style that had started taking root in the San Francisco area beginning in the late nineteenth century. The occasion was the Domestic Architecture of the San Francisco Bay Region exhibition, hosted by the San Francisco Museum of Art in the fall of 1949.

Three years earlier, near Los Angeles, Calvin Straub had begun what would be a 46-year career in architecture. Straub is best known for his work in southern California, especially his partnership with Conrad Buff III and Donald Hensman. Buff, Straub & Hensman designed and built about 30 projects, mostly residential. Straub moved to Arizona in 1961 to accept a professorship at Arizona State University. “He came for fresh inspiration and the opportunities in the fast-growing region,” says architect Mark Parry, AIA, a former student and associate of Straub’s. “He brought to Arizona the energy, enthusiasm, and expertise of a decade of award-winning design that had established him as an influential leader in his field.” And, like his work in California, Straub’s Arizona architecture aimed for the kinds of reconciliation suggested by Mumford.


Modern Phoenix Neighborhood Network

The Ellis Residence by Calvin C. Straub

Rob Vallee (photographer)

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© 2008 peter j. wolf