From playing with Legos as a child to leading an award-winning firm with offices in Scottsdale and Beverly Hills, Erik B. Peterson of PHX Architecture is celebrating 20 years of creating dynamic residential and commercial designs—and he’s just getting started.
Erik Peterson collaborated with Salcito Custom Homes Ltd., Janet Brooks Design and Greey|Pickett on this Scottsdale project from 2014. PHOTO COURTESY OF PHX ARCHITECTURE
Not everyone is lucky enough to know what they want to do from an early age. Despite not having family members in the field, Erik B. Peterson, president and founder of PHX Architecture (phxarch.com), had an inkling. “I was always playing with Legos and using blocks to build things,” he says, “and I suddenly got an interest in watching This Old House on PBS in the sixth and seventh grades. After the show, I’d take graph paper and sketch rooms and then remodel those rooms.”
While in high school, a friend suggested that Peterson get involved with the backstage crew. He joined freshman year. “By sophomore year, I was already tapped to be the guy drawing all the sets and overseeing all the design, and by senior year, I had done all the productions for the three years,” he explains.
Architect Erik Peterson. PHOTO BY DIANA ELIZABETH PHOTOGRAPHY
A school counselor recommended that Peterson go to school for architecture, which he did. After a five-year program at Iowa State University that included a year of study in Rome, Peterson got his master’s degree in architecture at Arizona State University, where he interned at Taliesin Associated Architects, the prestigious firm run by the disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright. “I was the one person that got in that year,” Peterson explains of the exclusive internship. “Here’s this Chicago boy who idolized Frank Lloyd Wright, and here I was working at his firm.”
From there, Peterson joined architect Bing Hu’s firm, where he stayed for many years. “He became my mentor and taught me all the ropes,” says Peterson, who eventually left to start his own firm in 2002. “It was one of those moments where I took a leap of faith,” he explains. “And before I knew it, I had 30 employees and was on some of the best projects in Scottsdale. I was in control and creating my own brand.”
The inviting living room of a home Peterson designed in Paradise Valley in the early 2000s. He collaborated with Cory Bennett Design and Berghoff Design Group on the project.
Over the past 20 years, PHX Architecture has become one of the most sought-after firms in the Southwest and beyond—including in Southern California, where he has an office in Beverly Hills—for everything ranging from high-end residential work to golf clubhouses, boutique resorts and more, not only in Arizona, but also in Hawaii, Texas, Montana, Colorado, Cabo and many other luxe destinations. One recent career standout was handling a major renovation at the Arizona Biltmore, the hotel famously designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. “To have started out at Frank Lloyd Wright’s firm and now hitting this moment of being able to merge together with him at the Biltmore and have my name forever associated with his work is really an unbelievable, special moment,” Peterson says.
So, what’s next for Peterson? Besides a third project with Phil Mickelson—a new golf clubhouse in Calgary, Alberta—a Jack Nicklaus project in Cabo, continuing projects at the Arizona Biltmore and a major redesign at The Maybourne Beverly Hills, he and his team are working on homes in the Phoenix area, Park City, Newport Beach, Beverly Hills and beyond.
A contemporary estate in Arizona by the PHX team, Schultz Development, Est Est Interior Design and Greey|Pickett. PHOTO BY PHIL JOHNSON PROVISUALS MEDIA
In the future, Peterson would like to get back to his roots in production design, specifically opera. “Opera is so dramatic because you’ve got everything from the singing to the visual to the orchestra,” he explains. “It takes all art forms and puts them together in one grand creative piece.”
And when it comes to his legacy, it’s all about reputation for Peterson. “Leaving a design or a bunch of buildings out there is sort of temporary,” he says. “I’d like to think people would say that I trained a lot of great architects throughout the years and created a culture of respect. Right now, our reputation is one of those stellar reputations in town, and that’s what I guard the most,” he continues. “I’ve probably got another 20 years [of work]—I want to make sure that it’s something really special.”
This project, designed in 2019, was a collaboration with Tierra Custom Homes & Remodeling and Jaimee Rose Interiors. PHOTO BY ROEHNER RYAN