The Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson looks like a natural extension of the mountains and canyons that surround it. Making it look that way took enormous effort and skill – far beyond what most developers at this time were doing to integrate nature with the built environment. The project’s biggest challenge was access (some of the resort’s buildings were not accessible from all sides) and working around native vegetation (including many 200-year-old saguaro cacti and other unusual native species) without disturbing them.


“The degree of difficulty on the project was very high,” said Sundt’s project manager. “The owner told us from the beginning that Ventana had to be completed on an accelerated schedule, with no sacrifice of quality or damage to the environment.”


Indeed, the hotel does look like it was simply lowered into place on the 95-acre site. Many of the buildings have monumental saguaros just inches from their exterior walls. That didn’t happen by accident, of course. Incorporating the area’s features into the resort was a top priority whenever possible. A natural waterfall in a canyon behind the hotel is one of the site’s most beautiful features, but prior to the project it didn’t run all year, so we built a pump station and carefully concealed a pipeline to recirculate water to the top of the fall to keep it running continually.


Sundt won an Associated General Contractors of America Build America Award in 1985 for our work at Ventana Canyon. We built both the 400-room resort and the Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club, which includes an 18-hole course. Thirty years later, Ventana is still one of Tucson’s signature attractions, and a timeless example of how luxury and architectural beauty can be integrated respectfully into the environment.


The Estes Company


Ventana Canyon Resort