Always Iconic

Bing Hu

H & S International

By Nora Burba Trulsson

Photography courtesy of H & S International and Silverleaf Realty


On a warm afternoon, architect Bing Hu is sipping bottled water in the lobby of Silverleaf Realty in North Scottsdale, while, outside, construction continues on Icon at Silverleaf, a luxe condominium compound with pricing starting in the $2 millions. Hu is not shopping for new digs. Instead, he’s not only the architect for the project, he’s the developer as well. “When you’re an architect and a developer, you are your own client,” he says. “You don’t have to compromise on design—if you do it right, the buyer will come. There’s nothing better.”

Hu, a principal of Scottsdale-based H & S International, is at the peak of his career, with this development project, plus numerous custom residences, spec homes, golf clubhouses and other things in the works, around the country and internationally. He’s come a long way since he arrived in Arizona in 1988 from his native China to live in a tent in the desert at Taliesin West, studying organic architecture at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. “In 1986 when I was at Tsinghua University, I won a national architecture prize for my design of a plaza in the heart of Shanghai,” Hu remembers. The prize allowed him to study in the United States at prestigious universities like Yale and MIT. Instead, he chose to follow his architectural hero, Frank Lloyd Wright, and study at Wright’s historic compound in Scottsdale. “I got picked up from the airport in a pickup truck and lived in a tent for more than a year before I built my own shelter,” Hu recalls of the immersive, hands-on learning experience at Taliesin West. “I was 23 years old.”

In 1989, Hu went back to China to marry Wendy Shi, a structural engineer (and the “S” in H & S International), bringing her back to Taliesin West. Narrowly missing the Tiananmen Square massacre, the couple decided to make their lives in the United States.Hu worked his way up the Taliesin ladder, becoming part of Taliesin Associated Architects—the continuation of Wright’s architectural practice. In 1994, he decided to go out on his own. “I quit with no projects,” Hu remembers. “I set up my studio in the family room of our small house in Phoenix.”His big break came when he was asked to take a stab at designing some lock-and-leave golf villas at Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain community. “Lyle Anderson, the Desert Mountain developer, loved my design,” Hu says. “From then on, the work has been nonstop.”Before long, Hu and H & S International were involved in custom and spec homes throughout Desert Mountain and other North Scottsdale communities. Clubhouses followed. In 1998, Hu began working with Discovery Land Company, developers of golf and vacation communities like Scottsdale’s Mirabel and Estancia, and Hawaii’s Kuki’o. However, the Recession hit Arizona design and build firms hard, and Hu’s was no exception. “There was nothing here,” he remembers. “We were all in survival mode.” He decided to go back to his roots, and found work in China—mega-work, such as Four Seasons and Westin hotels work. “China was exploding back then. We kept busy.” Did he think about going back? “Wendy and I had become Arizonans by then,” Hu says. “We didn’t want to go back.”

After the Recession’s lull, work picked back up in the United States, and it’s been going nonstop for H & S. There are projects in Hawaii, Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas, Idaho and Montana, not to mention Scottsdale. “We’ve done thousands of projects,” he says, “and we don’t have a ‘signature style.’ I follow Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of tailoring projects to the local culture, the landforms and to the buyer.”While work has been nonstop, Hu has managed to carve out time to pursue some personal passions, such as being a trustee of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which owns both Taliesin West in Scottsdale and Taliesin in Spring Green Wisconsin. He also quietly bought the historic David and Gladys Wright house, an iconic, circular residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1950 for his son and daughter-in-law. Floating above what was once a lush citrus grove, the house fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition when a local history enthusiast purchased it and began the restoration process, hoping to use the property as an architectural education center. When neighbors objected to its proposed non-residential use, Hu stepped in and purchased the home.“I’m going to use this as my design studio when I retire,” Hu says. “I’m not ready to retire, but after all the madness, I know where I will be—working and looking out the windows of that house.”