A Future in the Cards for
Architect Erik Peterson
Text by Riki Altman-Yee    Photos Courtesy of PHX Architecture

Above: Architect Erik Peterson’s expansion into Southern California has been paying off in spades.

Since 2002 Erik Peterson and his talented team at PHX Architecture have designed and significantly enhanced mostly residential and commercial projects across Arizona, California and throughout the Southwest so it was only natural to wonder where the blue-eyed architect would focus next. “I felt like I reached a pinnacle locally,” Erik says. 

Supporters were telling him his next stop should either be in L.A., New York or London. Then a friend and former client suggested he rent a vacant office space she owns in Beverly Hills, one block off Rodeo Drive, so he gave it a go in 2017. “We immediately started to get some of the A-list interior designers and builders in town feeding us projects,” he says. “Anything that was ‘small’—like under $10 million—they couldn’t find people. So I was like, ‘I’ll take them all!’” The gamble has been paying off in spades.

Around the same time, the Boards of Arizona Opera and Scottsdale Public Art approached. “It’s very inspiring,” he says of his Arizona Opera Board position. “I was really honored. The new director, Joe Specter, is so phenomenal. His leadership is so spectacular.” Erik is equally enthusiastic about the Scottsdale Public Art Board’s leadership, which has introduced him to local politicians and pending city projects. 

Above: PHX Architecture specializes in residential, commercial and hospitality projects.

It seems he was destined to succeed in myriad ways. Growing up in Chicago, the Lego aficionado says he and his father would watch This Old House, television’s original home improvement show and: “Mom was a huge opera fan and would always call me in to watch PBS’ Live from The Met[ropolitan Opera]. I thought it would be really cool to design sets.” In middle school Erik took a technical drafting course and in high school he helped design theater sets. 

After receiving his bachelor of architecture degree at Iowa State University in 1993, Erik started searching for a thriving destination where he could seek his masters and launch a career. “The economy was pretty bad,” he recalls. “I looked at Forbes magazine for the top five states for growth in conjunction with schools that had good architecture programs. I really fell in love with Phoenix. It had the most Midwest feel to it. And we had the Cubs here a lot and a lot of Chicago people. I felt at home.”

Above: Erik Peterson’s philanthropic pursuits include supporting Arizona Opera, Scottsdale Arts and Phoenix Art Museum. Pictured are Arizona Opera’s La Bohème, Scottsdale Arts’ Canal Convergence and Independent Woman Luncheon at Phoenix Art Museum.

Erik enrolled at Arizona State University and, during his first week, secured a summer internship at Taliesin West. That led to a part-time job alongside renowned architect Bing Hu, who hired Erik full time upon graduation. After seven years, Erik decided it was time for a change though, he admits, “I never had that drive to have my own firm.” He founded PHX Architecture (formerly Peterson Architecture) with his family’s support, recalling, “In 2002 there was a massive boom and I was immediately able to become sustainable.” 

Since then the award-winning PHX Architecture has been hired to rejuvenate spaces from The Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park to L’Auberge de Sedona and, most recently, the Camelback Inn’s Paradise Ballroom, though many locals associate the firm with SumoMaya, a Mexican-Asian restaurant in Scottsdale. PHX Architecture recently completed a remodel of Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson and The Lodge at Pebble Beach in Carmel, and its client roster also includes former Arizona Diamondback Randy Johnson and actor/producer Vince Vaughn. 

In addition to regular philanthropic pursuits locally, he and his firm are working on a special pro bono project for Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, where Erik’s in-laws wed. In April he, his two teenage kids, and their mother/his wife, Kimberly, intend to celebrate their 20th anniversary there, also. “We going to renew our vows at the chapel where they got married,” he says. Sounds like serendipity all around.