Bill Tonnesen's Sculptural Oddities at Casa Carmel Apartments in Tempe

Categories: Hidden Valley
One of two prominent sculptures at Casa Carmel.
If you've driven north on Rural Road toward Broadway in the past five months, you might have seen something strange on the side of the road: Namely, giant silver sculptures that look like those robot performance artists in New York's Times Square.

But these shiny sculptures aren't part of an art gallery or installation. They're actually an art installation in Casa Carmel, an apartment complex recently redesigned by landscape architect Bill Tonnesen.

Yes, the same Bill Tonnesen who pimped a grand underground memorial for Holocaust survivors that never materialized, who wears Oxford shirts with his name embroidered above the pocket, and has a lengthy lawsuit resume (and a puff piece, to boot). You can read the epic tale of Tonnesen in Phoenix New Times' feature "Illusions of Grandeur" from 2005, but we also suggest strolling by Casa Carmel for a look at Tonnesen's, uh, evolution.

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Front entry sign designed by Maurizio Cattelan.
The Casa Carmel apartments are located at 2222 S. Rural Road, and were constructed in 1963. And last September, the revamping of the 20-unit, garden-style apartments (Tonnesen-style) began.

His decorations include a rustic metal canister sculpture, complete with an axe that has "Tonnesen" written on the handle, a strange sign featuring a woman holding an altered photo of the Mona Lisa, and two life-size silver statues.

The most prominent statue is a woman in a hooded robe, slouched down with a pensive look on her face.

She's up on a platform facing Rural Road, with an stack of concrete blocks jutting out at various angles below her. It's a dubious display that could be symbolic of anything from the Virgin Mary praying to a beggar nodding out on heroin.

The second statue is an eyeless man in a large hat and jacket, leaning off of the apartment's roof, holding a hand-fan/pin wheel.

Artistic reprieve can be found in the complex's entrance sign, designed by Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan, and black-and-white pieces that hang outside every unit's door.

Note to would-be renters: The complex is currently full.

This post has been edited from its original version.
 
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The man on the roof at Casa Carmel
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3 comments
TONNESENSUCKS
TONNESENSUCKS

1. Cockroach infested

2. Disgusting flooring (Over 20+ year old tile)

3. Plastic (Plexi-glass) windows!

4. Brick Walls (NO INSULATION)

5. CONSTANT BREAK IN’S. MAYBE IF THERE WERE REAL WINDOWS…

6.OVER-PRICED

7.CREEPY, PERVERTED, DRUGGIE LAND-LORD.

8.FAKE SECURITY CAMERAS/COMPANY

9.REPAIRS ARE AT YOUR OWN EXPENSE

10. STRAY ANIMALS ALL OVER THE PROPERTY

 

ALL IN ALL, SAVE YOURSELF THE TROUBLE AND DO NOT EVER VISIT/RENT AT THIS PROPERTY.

John Kobierowski
John Kobierowski

Wow, I drove by Villa Carmel last week and was surprised. I know the property well, knew the past owners. I'm not sure who is causing more of an issue - the old owners ran an under parked, under maintained property or the new owners who have somehow obtained the permits to "enhance" the asset. Not sure who the renters are and what they think of this?

Dain Quentin Gore
Dain Quentin Gore

Tonnesen has dabbled in a lot of styles, all of which I think are riddles designed to frustrate and confuse...other artists. As I recall, he doesn't like to talk about meaning. That makes his work...more expensive. As for the public; well, as you reported, it's sold out.

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