Two significant modern homes designated in Tucson


Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation


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Two significant modern homes in the Tucson, AZ region have recently received official recognition as historic landmarks. Due to an increase in population growth in the mid twentieth 20th century, Tucson saw a correlated rise in construction during that time. Now, thanks to organizations such as Tuscon Preservation Foundation, they are beginning to receive the attention and recognition that they deserve. In 2021, both the Beck House, designed by John H. Beck, and Viewpoint/Johnson House, designed by Judith Chafee, were designated as local landmarks.

Beck House

In December 2021, the City of Tucson Mayor and Council unanimously voted to designate the John Beck House, a city landmark as part of the  City of Tucson Historic Landmark program. These designations are intended to ensure the preservation of significant historic and archaeological resources, and to keep them in active use or management in their historic appearance, settings, and locations. The designation is a zoning overlay that places restrictions on the property that protect it and require approval from the mayor and council for future demolition.

Designed in 1959 by Architect John Beck as his own home and constructed in 1960 by local Tucson builder R. B. Taylor, it is a rare example of an International style residential home.

At the time of construction, the house showcased an example of progressive architecture within a traditional suburban context”. The house has several features that were considered newer ways of building and designing at the time. “The ten monolithic concrete panels connected horizontally are asymmetrically divided by the double carved doors and a projecting integrated porch. With four panels on each side, the south end of the façade is extended by a two-pane window with orange paneling below and above followed by the final two concrete panel elements. The exterior of the project is home to The gardens, parking area and driveway, setbacks, materials, and expressive design [that] combine to create an outstanding example of the early 1960s post-WWII suburban development occurring in Tucson.” (Historic Landmark Nomination).

“Designation of properties like the John Beck House is only possible through the partnership of forward-thinking owners who understand the importance of protecting the architectural heritage of our community and region. Without this ethic of cultural stewardship designations like this would be impossible,” noted Demion Clinco, CEO of Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation.

Viewpoint/Johnson House

Viewpoint (also known as the Johnson House), was designated a Pima County Historic Landmark on December 7, 2021. Similar to the City of Tucson program, this is a zoning overlay that proactively places restrictions on the property that require approval from the Board of Supervisors for future demolition or significant alterations.

Located on the eastern edge of the Tucson Mountain Rang, the “single-family residential house and carport was designed in 1972 and built in 1974. The house is a highly significant example of the work of master architect Judith Chafee, FAIA (1932-1998) and the Modern Movement in Tucson.

Designed for her mother, Christina Johnson and husband Earl J. Johnson, the project provided Chafee the freedom to fully explore her architectural and design theory. The building is part of Chafee’s foundational work in Tucson that boldly and clearly expresses the tenets of her design philosophy. Although early in her private practice, the project presented fully developed and mature design concepts that were clearly executed. The design was the first of many projects in Southern Arizona that established Chafee as a significant American architect.

During and after construction, Viewpoint was recognized locally and nationally for its design, including being featured on the cover of the Los Angeles Times Homes Magazine, March 30, 1975; the cover of House and Garden Building Guide, Spring-Summer 1975; featured in Architectural Record, Mid-May 1975 and in the 1979 book Houses of the West. Recently, Chafee’s work has garnered renewed attention with a 2016 PBS documentary, The Architect: Judith Chafee and the 2019 publication of the book Powerhouse: The Life and Work of Judith Chafee by Christopher Domin and Kathryn McGuire, which provided contextual scholarship examining Chafee’s life and work and extensively featured Viewpoint and its importance within Chafee’s architectural development.  

Dr. Michael Fassett, Board President of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, noted “We hope this will be the first of many local landmarks that protect the work of one of the great architects of our region. We hope owners of other Judith Chafee homes will work to designate them as local Historic Landmarks.”