In 1926, well-known architect Frank Lloyd Wright was called to Phoenix to help with the building of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. This was the beginning of Wright's long relationship with Arizona. In the early 1960s, Arizona State University President Grady Gammage wanted Wright to bring a new look to the university, so Wright promised that this structure would be the gateway to ASU. Wright's design for the auditorium was based on an earlier design of his for an opera house in Baghdad, Iraq, which was never built because of the 1958 Iraqi coup d'état. Shortly before construction took place in 1962, the president of the university, Dr. Grady Gammage, passed away. Under Gammage's presidency, the school went from a college to a university, among many other changes and additions. To commemorate his time as president, the new auditorium was named Gammage Auditorium. Gammage Auditorium opened in 1964 and has since been an icon of the university and the western anchor of Apache Boulevard.
Frank Lloyd Wright would have an indelible impact on the architectural modernism of the greater Salt River Valley region. This extended from his landmark Taliesin West to various designs for commercial and non-profit organizations throughout the region. Ironically, perhaps his most interesting design was ever built. In 1957, Wright designed the blueprints for the Arizona State Capitol Oasis. The design featured gardens, fountains, reflective pools, a gazebo, and more. Even though everyone was in agreement that Wright's design was spectacular, the state decided to instead construct a conventional building in front of the original state capitol. When President Kennedy's Secretary of Interior, Stewart Udahl, was later asked why Arizona had the ugliest state capitol, he said "Because we missed the boat and muffed the ball when we rejected the Oasis Design by Frank Lloyd Wright."
In 1964 Gammage Auditorium celebrated its grand opening with a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Today Gammage hosts traveling Broadway shows and musicals, among many other programs that range from presidential debates to musical performances.