The architectural vision of Antoine Predock is spiritual, environmental, and symbolic. His work, grounded in ideas derived from the varied landscapes of the American Southwest, returns to architecture a mysterious connection with place and human feeling that many believe has been eroded by 20th-century life. A key element in his approach to design is context. For Predock, however, context goes beyond contextualism to embrace the site and all that will happen there over time. Predock has applied his architectural vision to a variety of building types, but his ideology is most vivid in his institutional works—such as the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts (1998) in Alto, New Mexico; the Arizona Science Center (1997) in Phoenix; and the American Heritage Center Art Museum (1993) at the University of Wyoming, Laramie—and in his designs for domestic space, including the Venice House (1991) in Venice, California; the Rosenthal House (1993) in Manhattan Beach, California; and the Hotel Santa Fe (1992) at Euro Disney, outside Paris.
Predock’s work is affected by all his life experiences, ranging from a visit to the Egyptian pyramids to a ride on his motorcycle. He received his bachelor of architecture degree from Columbia University in New York City in 1962 after beginning his education at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1957. While a student in New York, he became involved in the art of dance. Predock translated the movement of the body in dance into spatial elements within his architecture as both a strong processional component and a focus on an accumulation of viewpoints. Through the many different buildings of the complex, the Nelson Fine Arts Center (1989) at Arizona State University in Tempe architecturally offers a number of processional choices that are further multiplied by the transition from daytime to nighttime. The complex can also be interpreted as a piece of performance art with its numerous balconies, arcades, loggias, and steps, each providing a different stage for the user to engage and act on.
Predock’s early work was relatively modest in scale. After working for three years as a designer in the offices of I.M.Pei and Partners in New York City and Gerald McCue Associates in San Francisco, Predock founded his own firm in Albuquerque in 1967. The four-person office built its reputation on houses and institutional buildings that blended comfort with the vernacular Southwest image, depicted by Predock in the employment of natural desert colors and contextual materials in a tough, defensive architecture. The 1986 completion of the Fuller House in Scottsdale, Arizona, marked the national and international recognition of his bold, abstracted, and original style. The house is deeply set into the earth and oriented with respect to the east-west axis, which provides the potential heating and cooling properties of each room. Nature is brought into the design through the inclusion of a sunrise terrace and a sunset tower separated by a circular pool, which acts as the terminus of the water channel that runs parallel to the east-west axis of the house.
Inspired by architects such as Louis I.Kahn and Frank Lloyd Wright, Predock included with his regional sensibility the elements of the modern in his 1993 design of the Turtle Creek House in Dallas, Texas. Giant limestone ledges recall the geologic setting of Dallas, and the great glass wall recalls architecture of the International Style. The house, surrounded with trees and plantings, provided a specialized setting for the patrons who were avid bird-watchers. Not only do the plantings welcome the birds but also the siting of the house along the major north-south migratory flyways greets the feathered creatures. This same axis also became the dominant processional path through the house.
Predock’s interpretation of the Tucson, Arizona, environment dictated the design of the Ventana Vista Elementary School (1995). From a distance, this “city for children” nestles into the landscape and color palette of the desert site. At the heart of the complex, Predock placed a large white tent, reminding the children of the larger environment and imparting his notion that life in the desert was not always so predictable or sedentary. The fourth- and fifth-grade neighborhood is located on the highest part of the site. The walls of this neighborhood’s classrooms are easily opened up to the exterior by large rolled-up garage doors. The second- and third-grade neighborhood revolves around spaces for reading, such as the sorcerer’s terrace, and spaces for contemplation and dreaming, including the desert kaleidoscope, where children can peer through cylindrical skylights into a shallow dome and out to the sky. The sense of discovery continues for all children on the path to the celestial realm and the solstice wall, the apertures of which not only frame distinct views of the landscape and sky but also align with the sun during the summer and winter solstices. Spy holes in the classroom walls enable children to catch a glimpse of their classmates at work.
Predock’s firm continues to receive outstanding commissions, including the San Diego Padres Park at the Park in San Diego, California, and the Cornerstone Arts Center at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Underway at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis is the Gateway Center, a granite-clad geode attached to two parallel copper boxes. Its architectural distinctiveness draws from Minnesota themes, particularly in the 90-foot-high granite geode that evokes Lake Superior’s north shore. Fissures of glass, allowing natural light in during the day and bathing the surrounding area with projected light at night, crisscross the granite planes. The Gateway Center illustrates Predock’s fascination with engineering and architecture, developed early in his career at the University of New Mexico under the tutelage of his mentor, Don Schlegel.
Predock’s creative and insightful work has won numerous worldwide awards and has been the subject of many architectural exhibitions. His projects, invigorated by the form and spirit of the place, including its environment, rituals, and culture, have brought to architecture a soul and character unknown in the work of many of his contemporaries. Although his buildings are not easily copied in the formal sense, the ideology of his design provides an exciting model for those practicing today. For Predock, architecture is more than a fleeting moment in a designer’s mind. A building has a life all its own, one that takes on a magical quality from things that come before, during, and after its original conception. As Predock has stated, “We remind ourselves that we are involved in a timeless encounter with another place, not just a little piece of land. All of the readings that have accumulated and been assimilated there, that are imagined there, that may happen there in the future—all of these collapse in time and become the raw material with which we interact.”