Anyone who gives a damn about the look and feel of Tucson, and in ways how some of its loveliness has been redeemed and shaped and conserved, should view this 24-minute piece called The Architect on Tucsonan Judith Chafee. You'll note that the much-revered and controversial Chafee was a trailblazer "who smoked, drank and cursed and built homes." For example, she was the first woman from Arizona, in what was then basically a white male profession, named a fellow in the American Institute of Architects. She created major award-winning homes, her Ramada house is on the national record of historic places, and her storied Tucson Mountain Blackwell House was mired in controversy for years and sadly razed. Chafee, who died 18 years ago at 65, was, not surprisingly, less well known in her Tucson hometown than she was nationally (hell, the New York Timesjust featured one of her homes). But she'll be forever remembered in modernist architecture circles for her fabulously executed designs that incorporated in thoroughly original ways desert surroundings and light. Though, incredibly, she was held back from doing major projects (watch the doc) in Tucson and most often she was commissioned to do private homes. More, her reasons for returning to Tucson to work will resonate with some viewers (watch the doc). Certainly did with this one.
To be sure, Chafee’s eye-popping story here is a national one and it’s lovingly told with verve, truth and dramatic flair, and beautifully shot too, by rising Arizona producer and director Andrew Brown for Arizona Public Media. Brown's work is always worth seeking out.