I grew up in the desert and only as I have gotten older have I been able to truly appreciate its beauty. I decided to spend my last 4 months of school creating my senior project surrounded and inspired by the desert I call home.
Forty-five miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona resides the small ranching community of Benson. Benson was founded in 1800 and served as a rail junction, transporting refined ore from neighboring communities of the southwest. There are 550 acres of land that are untouched at the base of the Whetstone Mountains, well almost. The original Jay-6 Ranch sits on 15 of those acres. The ranch is the location of our story.
Our main character, Jack Speiden can definitely be considered a Renaissance man. He was born in 1900 and served in both World Wars, attended Yale University where he lettered in hockey and football, taught in China, studied in London, made it big on Wall Street and even ran for Congress. During the Great Depression he lost almost everything and became ill. He moved out west to recuperate and start over. He was given advice to buy land. He did. J-6 was built as a working cattle ranch and hosted esteemed guests such as the Kennedy boys and Barry Goldwater. JFK spent a summer on the ranch doing manual labor and even assisting with the building of one of the casitas. Little is known of Jack’s later years, but a white marble mausoleum sits about 2 miles from the ranch, on the hill that Jack and his wife loved.
That is a lot of information, but the history is the heart of the project. J-6 Ranch has been vacant for over a decade and what better project could I develop, but one to preserve the Jack's story.
I chose a guest ranch as the new identity for J-6 to preserve the history as well as the land with the idea of sharing its beauty. The design of the guest ranch has elements to pay homage to the southwest with a contemporary perspective. From the site visit I was able to study and analyze the best placement for spaces as well as think about how sustainable elements could be integrated. I researched guest ranches, boutique hotels and cattle ranches, conducted interviews and contacted historians to give J-6 the attention to detail it deserves.
My concept of escape was explored using native decorative and design elements as well as a gallery to pull you into Jack's story. The images used in my rendering are actual pictures of JFK, Jack Speiden and the cover of a magazine, all depicting the original ranch. The images in the gallery are on large pieces of glass that are back lit capturing your attention and pulling you further and further into the experience of this special place.
This project was sketched, drawn in Revit and worked through PhotoShop with my hours documented in Excel. I painted a 36"x36" dyptich oil painting of the approach to J-6 where you have found yourself stumbling along a dirt path when off in the distance you see the rose colored ranch house. This project cemented the phases of design for me, exercised the challenges of programming and ended with a presentation in front of a panel of judges and peers.
Status: School Project
Location: Benson, Arizona