4440 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson
St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church was originally designed in 1936 by Josias Joesler, a Swiss-born architect who designed the majority of the tony foothills structures and is responsible for the amalgam of native and revival architecture sometimes known as the Tucson Style. Joesler’s structures can be counted on to mimic Mexican, Spanish, and Moorish styles with upscale flourishes, many of them stylish desertland haciendas on the bajada of the Catalinas, an area long reserved for the region’s wealthy.
A longtime Tucson architect once told me that Tucson , at least when it came to architecture, divorced itself from Mexico (and thereby Spain and its Moorish traditions) too quickly; these styles, with their courtyards and native materials and passive solar heating, are ideal for living in the hot, dry Sonoran Desert, certainly much better than the cheaply built tract homes that proliferate in the valley these days.
Very few Tucsonans build homes in the Joesler style anymore (to do so, or to live in one that’s already extant, is out of the financial question for most of us), and that’s too bad, because Joesler, like the originals he was inspired by, had it right.
St. Philip’s, my favorite of all Joesler’s structures in Tucson, is along the busy River Road corridor and yet retains a peaceful atmosphere with gardens and fountains and thick, silent walls. The building and grounds have been added to and changed over the years, but always with respect to the original vision.
Church officials welcome visitors and students of architecture and anybody else who wants to look around. It’s best not to go on a Sunday if you’re just looking, and it’s best to go before 4 p.m. weekdays if you want to talk to someone about the church and its history.