By creating the Lookout Studio, Mary Jane Colter unknowingly became a pioneer in the field of rustic architecture. In 1914, when her design of The Lookout came to life, exacting attention to detail ensured that this building would represent ancient Anasazi ruins found at the Four Corners while blending seamlessly with the natural design of the Grand Canyon.
Sitting west of the El Tovar Hotel and Hopi House, The Fred Harvey Company wanted a photography studio to compete with the profitable Kolb brother’s scene-stealing business. Constructed by the Santa Fe Railway, the outer walls contain wide windows that let in considerably more natural light than the other Mary Jane Colter National Historic Landmark buildings along the southern rim. Looking down over Indian Garden and the Bright Angel Trail, one can sweep their gaze upon the magical terrain with the telescopes permanently situated on the Lookout Studio’s terrace.
Colter, an avid fan of Native American culture, let the stones do the talking when she created Lookout Studio. Using natural materials from the area, she sought to bring Anasazi architecture back to life while creating the illusion that this building was actually just one of the many rock formations that grace the canyon proper. While rectangular in its frame, the building’s walls and roof follow no straight path, jutting and jagging in seemingly random earthly patterns on all sides.
While the photography studio is long gone, inside you will find a cozy, relaxing hideaway from the midday Arizona sun. Lookout Studio, while serving mainly as an observation post, includes a gift shop, which provides a wide selection of rocks, minerals and fossils, books about the Grand Canyon, artwork and photographic prints.
Lookout Studio, groundbreaking in its design, offers stunning glimpses of the horizon. Taking rustic design to new levels, the building seems to have been born from the face of the canyon’s cliffs. With random weeds growing from within cracks of the seemingly haphazard stone arrangements, Lookout Studio represents the ancient Anasazi ruins more today than perhaps it did in its early years.