THINK FOR A MOMENT ABOUT America’s luxury home communities. The merely successful evoke comfort and history. But the truly legendary communities do more than that: They simultaneously cast our memory backward while shooting our imaginations forward.
And so it is at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club, a community that has staked its claim along what many consider the border between urban and rural Arizona. Superstition offers custom lots as well as ready-to-move-in luxury housing. "Each of our communities offers owners a consistent theme in a unique setting," says Tom Popa, vice president of sales and marketing for the Anderson Cos.’ Superstition Mountain Properties. "Anderson strives for imaginative design, impeccable detail, and outstanding quality in its homes and clubhouses," Popa says. Anderson Homes and Design of Scottsdale, Ariz., is building the luxury production housing at the development.
Superstition Mountain aspires to legend by building on the region’s history.
Wanderers carved history into the Superstition Mountains for 9,000 years before the Hohokam and others built the first native settlements. The Spanish "discovered" the area in 1539 and deeded the Peralta clan a land grant spanning much of the Southwest, long before these dry and desolate mountains became a stronghold for Geronimo’s Apache warriors. The Jesuits studded the area with missions, setting the tone for architecture to come. Joseph Waltz claimed a fortune in Superstition. Mountain gold but died without revealing his famous Lost Dutchman mine.
Superstition Mountain draws its architectural theme from the brief and bygone days of the Arizona Territory. Arizona had just parted ways with Mexico to join the United States. "In the 1870s," Popa says, "the railroad finally found its way through the Arizona Territory. Italianate was all the rage in the eastern United States at that time. The trains brought building materials, such as timber, dimensional lumber, and tiles previously not easily available in the Southwest."
Eager to escape the rough-and-tumble reputation of the Wild West, the new Americans seized the opportunity to build new structures in the popular Italian style and remodel old ones with the newly available materials. Unimpeded by academia or zoning, the merged these with historic Spanish styles.
Superstition Mountain embraces the traditional look of the expansive ranch house and pays homage to the hill towns of historic Tuscany. The Villas at Golden Eagle Village are new treasures in the shadows of the past. Floor plans for the luxury homes cluster village-style, literally inhaling the gentle mountain air as thermal breezes of the Superstition Mountains sweep across the landscape at dusk and dawn.
The 3,000-square-foot Cetona plan 2, winner of a Grand Awards at this year’s Gold Nuggets, epitomizes the livable delight of these plans. The Cetona exploits the velvety desert air: Every room has windows or French doors waiting to be flung wide, blurring what is indoors from out. Models boast Tuscan village names to reinforce the theme. The homes feature inviting private courtyards and loggias. Privacy is paramount throughout the plans.
The villa homes nestle neighborly near each other, lending the illusion that you have arrived at an ancient Italian village nestled in the mountains. Thorny Saguaro cactus prick that illusion, grounding the villas to the Sonoran desert well east of metro Phoenix.
The award-winning design is the result of collaboration between BBG Architects of Santa Ana Heights, Calif., and Oz Architects of Scottsdale, Ariz. At build-out there will be 65 homes sized from 2,342 to 3,460 square feet. Prices range from $445,000 tO $605,000. Add lot premiums, and prices range from $450,000 tO $920,000. The typical lot is 65 by 100 feet. Half sit on the Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course, and 12 face the putting park.
The architecture of the community is seamless. Classic details include two-piece mortared clay roof tiles, exposed rafter tails, wood lintels, hewn columns, stone walls, and patinated stucco. Streets are cobblestone.
Superstition Mountain has firm architectural guidelines and a rigorous design review process governing all homes and public buildings in the community. Architecture must be four-sided, not just a pretty elevation, ensuring every view is up to snuff. All structures must be low profile and use at least three materials in the design — for example, stone and stucco walls with exposed hand-hewn wood or stone window headers.
Oz Architects designed the club and carriage houses, Superstition Mountain’s signature buildings. "We do a lot of boutique and hospitality work," says Oz president Don Ziebell, whose carefully crafted clubhouse is an allegory of the remodeled ranch house. This is a brand-new building that looks like a historic home.
"Often when buildings go up, the best day in their lives is the day they receive their certificate of occupancy. Then it’s all downhill from there," Ziebell says referring to the fact that wear and tear and changing tastes in architectural fashion rapidly date many new buildings.
Ziebell’s specialty is finding and combining materials and finishes that stand the test of time. At Superstition Mountain these include an exterior insulation and stucco system finished in a three-coat, Italian lime-wash. The illusion of age mates two color coats with a sealer and gives the building a rich patina from day one. Ziebell also uses stone-surfaced stem walls to anchor the building to the ground and banish what he calls levitating building syndrome.
Other details combine style and conspicuous practicality: Deep overhangs with projecting rafter tails not only evoke another era, they protect walls and glazing from sun and rain. (It doesn’t rain often in Arizona, but when it does it can be fast and furious.) To protect the impression of Arizona’s historic thick adobe walls, Ziebell never exposes wall ends or turns that would reveal 2X4 roots. He also specifies double-studs to give windows the effect of being installed in thick walls.
Ziebell seeks and collects old authentic details, too. One of the doors used in one of the public buildings is a 400-year-old Spanish antique, completely in keeping with the historic-inspiration age of the entire community.