By Karrie Porter Brace
“Do not seek to dominate nature with your buildings, but cooperate with it to achieve a harmony similar to that of natural creations.” —Gerry Jones
Carefree’s exciting architecture and sweeping vistas draw artists, designers, architects, visitors and residents who appreciate the creative integration of sculptural earth, rock and striking desert terrain. Cave Creek Museum’s 50th anniversary, with the Gerry Jones featured exhibit and a one-day only Home Tour of six unique and stellar residences, celebrates the imagination, aesthetic and resolve that initiated and continues to give the Desert Foothills its wonderful signature character.
Gerry Jones is the Desert Foothills’ distinguished architectural designer and builder who implemented the vision of Carefree’s founders, KT Palmer and Tom Darlington. After serving in the Marines in World War II and Korea, Jones remained in China to study history and philosophy, martial arts and jai alai. There, he observed that ancient Buddhist monasteries were tucked directly into the mountains. The topography had not been altered or leveled. When he began his career in design, he resolved to employ the terrain to its best advantage without destroying the natural mountain contours, just as the Buddhists had done centuries before.
In 1957, on a handshake, Jones helped Palmer and Darlington realize their vision of a planned community in the foothills north of the Valley. A seasoned rock climber, he knew the land well, rough-platting 2,200 acres of Carefree on foot. He laid out roads and lots by leading bulldozers across the land as he wove around native cacti, rocks, outcroppings and trees.
Properties were planned with a mandate that no boulder would be displaced to accommodate a builder’s needs. Furthermore, Jones utilized existing rocks and boulders structurally as supports for the foundations of his buildings and interior features of the spaces he created. Based on his practice of building in harmony with nature, he wrote Carefree’s architectural guidelines. They became the foundation for Maricopa County’s building ordinance, which regulates hillside development, grading and drainage to this day.
His 1974 paper “Must We Destroy in Order to Build?” addressed the issues facing those who loved the natural drama and beauty of their Sonoran homes. House-siting, materials palette, floor-level changes and structural solutions are harmoniously integrated with the rock formations and physical features surrounding a Jones-designed residence. Jones’ own residence is nestled within the northeastern boulders of Black Mountain. For nearly 50 years, he has made Carefree his home. He continues to work from his studio overlooking the broad expanse of this beautiful region. His most recent house, in the Nighthawk subdivision on Black Mountain, was completed in 2018.
Jones perceives how the world around us isn’t separated by interior and exterior dichotomies. He creates timeless architecture with a livable affinity for the extreme terrain in Arizona’s wilderness. He brings bedrock into dwelling spaces and puts homeowners into the living desert.
Experience the innovation and drama of Gerry Jones’ architectural design by touring six of his signature homes on the Cave Creek Museum’s The Gerry Jones Home Tour, March 8. [Read The Gerry Jones Home Tour, page 21.]
Photo: Loralei Lazurek, Images Arizona