A Wall, No Matter How Pretty, Is Still…a Wall

ScottsdaleDuring the summer of 2013, my husband and I took a very uncharacteristic vacation to a spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. I say “uncharacteristic” because a spa in the desert at the height of summer would not normally be at the top of our list of vacation destinations.

But, long story short, we were quite happy to find ourselves, sans children, in this suburban Arizona town in June.

(And, may I say, it was a lovely location from which to watch the super moon!)

So, one of the things that jumped out at me about The West’s Most Western Town (yes, that is Scottsdale’s somewhat official nickname), is that the built environment of this relatively new, arterial-focused city is dominated by walls.

Undulating walls…walls made of different materials…short walls, long walls, tall walls, grand walls, pony walls. There are walls with embedded art. There are elaborate walls along freeways. One special wall, my personal favorite, had fish sculptures on it that glowed a deep, blood red in the night.

And I realized something by the end of my stay there: no matter how much you spruce ‘em up, a wall will always tell a story of division, of separation, of disconnection, of hindrance, and of restriction. They certainly lent an air of desolation while driving about the city, and made me rather desperate to penetrate the walls, so I could feel as if I had arrived somewhere.


wall1 Wall2 Wall3 wall4 wall6 Wall7 Wall9 Wall10 Wall5 Wall8

All photos by author, Michele Reeves.  Click on photo for larger image and for gallery / slider display.

Crossposted at Civilis Consultants




Profile photo of Michele Reeves About Michele Reeves
Michele E. Reeves is an urban strategist with significant private sector experience revitalizing commercial districts. Her 14 plus years in real estate include working on public/private partnerships, marketing unknown or undesirable districts, pre-development consulting, siting manufacturing facilities, strategizing acquisitions and development with private sector investors, helping districts build identity, and creating retail leasing strategies. She founded Civilis Consultants to assist mixed-use and commercial districts to recognize and leverage their strengths, build successful relationships, and craft their unique stories. Michele has a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
Michele E Reeves
CIVILIS Consultants


  1. Not a new revelation (see Robert Frost) but true nonetheless.
    The only exception I would suggest is low retaining walls that are a part of landscaping.

  2. You will notice I didn’t entitle it: “Bold and Original, Never Before Expressed Thoughts on Walls!” It was meant to express my personal reflections on a place. However, there is certainly a larger discussion to be had about the metaphor of the wall and its application to the current political climate in Arizona, which is characterized by alarming segregation between two distinct and large demographics in the State: rich, white, senior, retired Mid-westerners and lower-income, Hispanic service workers, upon whose backs the State actually runs.

  3. And similar divisions can be found in many other communities all over this great divided nation of ours from Orange County to Montauk County.
    Be original.

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