By : Nancy Zimmerman
Luxurious resorts with a sense of place abound in the American Southwest, where proponents of contemporary architecture and design find fresh inspiration in the ancient cultures, distinctive geography and mystical allure of the desert.
Amangiri, Canyon Point, Utah
Resting serenely at the base of rugged sandstone cliffs and mesas, the sybaritic Amangiri resort appears to grow organically from the very earth amid a 600-acre moonscape that’s been sculpted by wind and water over countless millennia. The low-profile complex, which opened in 2009, was designed by Arizona architects Marwan Al-Sayed, Wendell Burnette and Rick Joy to emulate and honor the integrity of the desert terrain.
The property’s 34 suites, some with private pools and all featuring white stone floors and concrete walls that mirror the area’s geography, are reached via rock archways that resemble slot canyons. The interior decor’s subtle palette of grays, tans and light greens blurs the distinction between indoors and out and helps focus attention on the breathtaking landscape, which is skillfully framed by picture windows to function more like a living tableau or abstract painting than a mere view.
Public areas include a swimming pool encircling a dramatic rock escarpment; the Aman Spa, with indoor and outdoor treatment areas; the Desert Lounge, an open-air living room; and the central Pavilion that unites the spaces. The stone surfaces and architectural details give everything a sculptural quality, and the overall effect is at once epic and intimate, contemporary and timeless. amanresorts.com/amangiri
Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa, Phoenix, Ariz.
This luxurious Phoenix retreat on Gila River Indian Community land embraces the newest trend in green travel: geotourism, tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place by supporting its physical environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents. In 2011, the resort was awarded an Odyssey Geotourism Award by the Travel Industry Association in partnership with National Geographic Traveler magazine for maintaining the area’s cultural continuity through authentic Native American art, architecture, cuisine, entertainment and philanthropic opportunities. The resort is staffed with a Native American concierge who serves as an in-house cultural historian, as well as liaison to tribal elders of the Pima and Maricopa tribes.
With interior design inspired by these cultures, the 500 guest rooms and four restaurants reflect their aesthetic via patterned tiles, richly colored textiles and furnishings with petroglyph motifs. A stunning rock waterfall, a replica of the mouth of the Gila River, anchors the lobby, while the Aji Spa offers indigenous treatments based on Native American healing principles and natural substances like salt, blue cornmeal and desert botanicals. wildhorsepassresort.com
Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.
Situated on Pueblo Indian land on the high-desert plateau between Albuquerque and Santa Fe under the gaze of the Sandia Mountains, the low-rise Tamaya was built in 2001 but fits in so seamlessly with its surroundings that it appears to be another of the ancient adobe pueblos that have sheltered area residents for centuries.
All 350 guest rooms and suites, most of them with private patios and balconies, feature tasteful Southwestern interior design that blends Native American–style textiles and pottery with wood and leather furnishings and brass details popularized by Spanish settlers upon their arrival more than 400 years ago. Beamed ceilings, cozy fireplaces and desert shades of brown, tan and beige create a soothing sanctuary within, while outside under the turquoise New Mexican sky are activities like golf, horseback riding, hiking and swimming in one of three pools. The Tamaya Mist Spa & Salon provides native herbal wraps, desert seaweed treatments and even an ancient drumming session that uses percussion as a healing modality.
Not-so-typical resort activities include the Cultural Learning Center tour, which introduces guests to the history and culture of the Tamayame, the people of Santa Ana Pueblo, as well as classes in traditional pottery methods, Native American artisan demonstrations, and dance and flute performances to immerse you in the local culture. tamaya.hyatt.com
El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa [Taos, N.M.]
Living in harmony with nature is a recurrent theme in the architecture and design of the Southwest, where the terrain is beautiful but challenging and water is a scarce and sacred commodity. At Monte Sagrado, opened in 2007, this reverence for life-giving water is supported by the resort’s Living Machine system, an ecologically engineered environment that reclaims rainwater and wastewater for reuse in irrigation of the compound’s ponds and gardens.
The system is housed in the Biolarium, a kind of greenhouse filled with flowering plants and trees that combines architecture, biology and water treatment technology to produce a year-round profusion of greenery that’s both functional and beautiful. Photovoltaic panels are integrated into the Biolarium’s roof structure to provide shade from the high-altitude sun and generate power. The walkway that snakes throughout the resort is made of recycled ash, an environmentally safe building material that looks like adobe but is more durable and emits fewer greenhouse gases than concrete.
Inside, the lobby’s lavish design takes the inspiration for its high- domed ceiling and stacked-stone walls from the Pueblo Indian kiva, a sacred ceremonial structure. The 84 opulent guest rooms, suites and casitas are decorated to evoke Native American culture as well as other aesthetically stimulating locales like China, Egypt and Morocco. The lush fabrics, exceptional finishes and unique objets d’art create an atmosphere of luxurious refinement with just a hint of decadence. elmontesagrado.com
How To Get There
American Airlines serves Las Vegas with daily flights from Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Miami and JFK. Phoenix is served with daily flights from Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Santa Fe/Taos are served with daily flights from Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles. Visit aa.com.