Painted Desert Visitor Center and Community

Painted Desert Visitor Center and Community

Within the vast open landscape of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forests National Monument, Neutra and Alexander took on the commission for various budlings at the site including ranger housing, administration buildings, local community spaces, and a visitors’ center. Neutra himself was fascinated by the Petrified Forests whose stone remains of trees dated back sixty million years. Neutra responded to a preliminary design by firm architects for free-standing units which were widely dispersed across the site by encouraging a more unified plan modeled after Spanish plazas and Southwestern pueblos. These recommendations are reflected in the final plan which had a more densely congregated group of houses interconnected by patios and a central plaza. A two-story administration building provided an essential wind barrier for these open areas. While in layout, the buildings took on Spanish and Spanish-Colonial precedents, their architectural style were distinctly Modernist in character. In addition, the site incorporated a library, elementary school, concession stands, a multi-purpose room, and storage and facilities buildings. The school’s design allowed teachers to instruct multiple grade levels in a single space; a large room that could be divided with a folding partition. One half of this large room, with movable seating, had space dividers which were hinged to the wall, allowing for numerous classroom arrangements. Storage and facilities buildings were composed of brick and modeled in low forms that resembled the natural attractions nearby: the National Monument’s mesas and platforms. In addition to the buildings, the firm was also responsible for the site’s signage, and this graphic design project resulted in fonts and motifs inspired by local petroglyphs.

Adapted from Neutra – Complete Works by Barbara Lamprecht (Taschen, 2000), p. 400.

Project Detail

Year Built


Project Architect

Neutra & Alexander


Painted Desert, AZ

Current Status

Protected, Public