Sustainability and interdisciplinary learning meet in a unique education facility in the Arizona desert
Located at the northeast edge of downtown Phoenix, as part of a larger biomedical campus, the building is a model for designing in a harsh desert climate. The overall effect of the exterior is one that meets objective criteria for thermal performance and durability while creating an architectural expression that is specific to the building’s place and time.
Carved out of the building block to minimise solar exposure and maximise self-shading, 'The Canyon' is the building’s central organising element allowing light from and visual connection to the exterior. Defined by two academic wings and 'The Mixing Bar', this exterior space is protected overhead by a fabric structure, tempered with landscaping and semi-conditioned with relief air. As its name implies, The Mixing Bar houses shared programs which foster cross-discipline interaction, critical for the sharing of information between various health sciences students, in a building which houses multiple colleges from two major universities.
Inspired by the iconic canyon formations found throughout Arizona, the façade reinterprets the stratified earth layers revealed over time, as a copper sun screen protecting the primary exterior enclosure from direct solar exposure. Akin to the natural forces that shape the earth’s geology, the copper skin is fissured, formed, bent, pressed and perforated. Fenestration and sun-shading is program-driven, creating unexpected beauty and rhythm from functional need. Inspired by the cave dwellings, the building base is carved out expressing the inner structure. Concrete and block walls provide tactile evidence of human intervention in creating architecture and space, while self-shading the glass walls which reinforces connections from public interiors to exterior 'green' spaces.