What Would Beadle Do?

A development team with close ties to Sources for Design aims to restore and update a Three Fountains townhouse, an iconic project by Al Beadle.

By Nora Burba Trulsson

Photography by Andrew Jarson/azarchitecture.com

A 1964 real estate advertisement in the Arizona Republic touts living at the recently completed Three Fountains apartment complex on 40th Street, at the edge of the Arcadia neighborhood in Phoenix. According to the ad, for $175 a month unfurnished and $225 furnished, tenants could live the mod life in the two-story, 1,000-square-foot townhouse-style units, which featured dishwashers and other electric appliances, two pools and even poolside phones. It was the epitome of the swinging Sixties lifestyle, with a design that featured two upstairs bedrooms, all meant to appeal to singles and young professionals.

And, of course, it was sleek and modern—designed by the late architect Al Beadle—who has himself become the epitome of midcentury modernism in Greater Phoenix. 

Today, one of the units—now condominiums—is being restored and updated by a newly formed development team headed by interior designer Larry Lake and real estate developer Ben Pozez, who, respectively, are also Sources for Design’s editor/publisher and travel editor. “Ben and I formed By Design Development with the goal of working on architecturally significant projects,” explains Lake, whose four-decade design career has included work on residential, commercial and multi-family projects. “We feel that every part of the development process should be by design, and with intention.” Tucson-based Pozez is the business counterbalance to Lake’s creativity. He’s an Arizona native who has worked on hundreds of residential and commercial development projects, always, as Lake puts it, “by finding the solution that nobody realized was there.”

The partners of By Design Development found the Three Fountains condo unit through Realtor Scott Jarson, co-founder of azarchitecture.com, a Scottsdale real estate firm specializing in architecturally significant homes. “I’ve listed and sold a lot of the units at Three Fountains,” explains Jarson, who serves as the development team’s real estate advisor. “The one that Larry and Ben purchased is significant because it is virtually in original condition and has had very few updates.”

Indeed, the untouched quality of the interior and the adjoining patio appealed to Pozez and Lake, and prior to working on the restoration and updating, they hosted an informal charrette in the empty condo, inviting input from not only Jarson, but from architect Ned Sawyer, who worked on Three Fountains at the start of his career with Al Beadle.

Sawyer, who worked with Beadle from 1961 to 1972, through his years of studying architecture at ASU, recalls the 59-unit Three Fountains apartment complex was completed about 1963. “Three Fountains was an expansion on Beadle’s design of The Triad, a three-apartment unit he designed for his in-laws and friends on 28th Street in Phoenix,” recalls Sawyer. The Triad, the only Arts & Architecture modernist “Case Study” project in Arizona (the rest were in California) put Beadle on the map, and led to larger projects, like Three Fountains and nearby The Boardwalk, another apartment complex.

“Three Fountains was done with developer Frank Braggiotti,” Sawyer continues. “With its landscaped central core and private back patios, it was meant to capitalize on the townhouse style, which was gaining popularity in Phoenix at the time.” The units, Sawyer explains, were all built in a 16-foot modular design, creating good-sized rooms and a pleasing aesthetic. Rather than putting all the units into a monolithic block, Beadle broke them down into several separate buildings, rotating them on the site and linking them with a series of pathways and plant-filled beds, all cooled by an overhead shade structure. At the front of the complex, a shallow pool with three fountains served as both a focal point and the namesake.

Each unit opened up onto a generously sized patio, visible through the living room’s wall of windows and fenced with what were actually masonite door panels, for privacy. Other details included a two-story strip of colored bubble glass at the front entry, filling the interior with blue or green light; and jalousie windows in the upstairs bedrooms. 

“Al Beadle thought of Three Fountains as a place where executives and singles could live, prior to starting families and wanting single-family homes,” says Sawyer.

Jarson has his own of Three Fountains. “I am quite certain this land was once part of a citrus grove,” Jarson says. “Most of Arcadia was filled with citrus years ago.”

A more personal memory for Jarson is that his older brother lived in one of the apartments from 1969 to 1970. “I was seven years younger,” he remembers, “He had a stereo with quadraphonic sound there, and I though he was living the life in these ‘swinging’ apartments.”

Some time in the early 1980s, Jarson says, the apartments converted to condominiums and established an HOA before hitting a rough patch in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. “Most of the loans on the condos were from savings and loan institutions,” Jarson says, “and many of the savings and loans failed during those years, resulting in foreclosures. At one time, you could buy a Three Fountains unit for $29,000, cash. Nobody would lend on them.”

But things turned around in the mid-1990s, particularly when Beadle’s name gained recognition and his designs became coveted by discerning buyers. “A lot of big names in Arizona’s design community have lived here,” Jarson says, “including Marwan Al Sayed and Mies Anderson, before they moved to Los Angeles.”

During the charrette, Pozez and Lake confirmed their plan of treading lightly and respecting history with the work they’re doing within their Three Fountains unit. “I have a huge contact list of resources, so we can get this project just right,” says Lake. “It’s already under construction. We’re doing design elements like terrazzo-style floors, Beadle-influenced pendants over the kitchen island and replacing the overgrown landscape on the patio with shrubs and an orange tree, just like the original plantings. We even uncovered the bubble glass strips, which had been drywalled over by a previous owner.” New bathroom fixtures, an updated kitchen and LED lighting will bring today’s technology into the plan without disrupting Beadle’s original intent. “Beadle was always on the cutting edge of design, so we wouldn’t want to just do a historical restoration,” Lake points out.

The Three Fountains project is the start for By Design Development, with more to come. “Larry and Ben have a commitment to find midcentury works to do a restoration that not only makes it functional for today, but honors the original intent,” says Jarson. “They are seeking the authentic by asking, what would Beadle do if he was building this today?”