Phoenix Architecture: Part Three
June 28, 2008, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Architecture, The Modern List, Travel, Urban Architecture

Part three of our Phoenix series focuses on the public library. As this is our last in the series we are also including The Modern List Arizona and New Mexico, a two-page list of things hot and modern from hotels to restaurants to landscapes. Download the 14KB PDF here: TML-AZ&NM. As always the list isn’t comprehensive or complete, just a bunch of our favorite modern places.

Phoenix Public Library
As luck would have it, our visit to the Phoenix Public Library coincided with the summer solstice. The structure was designed with strategically placed apertures for natural daylight and subsequently the solstice is an extraordinary occasion – even the architect, Will Bruder, spoke at the event. Another important figure present at the solstice was photographer Roger E. Cohen who was gracious enough to send us a copy of the extremely cool panorama below. For more information about his photography, Roger can be contacted at

[photo by Roger E. Cohen]

The library is most celebrated for its geometric fabric sun-screens at the entrance façade, and don’t get us wrong – they’re gorgeous, but the entire library inside and out is just as innovative and well designed as the method of screening.

[photos by BUILD llc]

The other sides of the building are also of interest as they each face very different environments and subsequently have drastically different interfaces.

[photos by BUILD llc]

Inside, a light space-frame of tension cables hold up the roof structure. The feeling on the top floor is airy and spacious and the detailing above the columns is fascinating. The angle of the sun creates subtle changes to the light reflected on the column tops. With the additional light reveals at the walls, the roof achieves a floating appearance.

[photos by BUILD llc]

The use of tension cables is also used at the stair core for lateral stability.

[photo by BUILD llc]

Despite using so many different materials the building still maintains an architectural discipline. The cor-ten steel, stainless steel, concrete, aluminum and glass all seem to work nicely together.

[photo by BUILD llc]

The range of different patterns and textures among such a wide range of materials also surprised us. In theory it sounds like too much going on, but looking at the building the composition reads coherently. Perhaps it’s the shear size of such an object that allows for more variety among material and texture.

[photos by BUILD llc]

The building seems to have varying degrees of success in terms of weathering. While the concrete and cor-ten steel seem to benefit from the process of weathering, stainless steel is a material that typical looks best new and shiny.

[photos by BUILD llc]

Overall – a masterwork that should definitely be on your to-do list for that next trip to Phoenix.


4 Comments so far
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Just so you know: while the Phx Pub Library is one of my favorite buildings, those shades haven’t worked for years….. they’re supposed to move with the sun, but once broken (not long after install), the powers that be decided not to spend the money to fix ’em.

Comment by Justin

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Justin – thanks for the low-down on the shades, we didn’t know that about their original function. The water feature inside also seemed a bit neglected. Maybe they spent their wad on the original construction?…

Comment by Anonymous

Wow — I was about to say I appreciate the very industrial design, ’til the comments pointed out how they didn’t work so well. :)

Comment by Bea Scott

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